Highways in Ontario

All freeways in Ontario are highways, but not every highway is a freeway. The highway is a general term denoting a public way for purposes of vehicular and pedestrian travel, including the entire area within the right-of-way. This includes King’s Highways, regional and county roads, rural roads, municipal roads, and streets.

Picture 1. Example of Highways 

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Highways Characteristics


  • Highways are also high-speed roads but they have railway crossings, signal lights, and stop signs.
  • Oncoming traffic is separated by only a painted line down the center of the road.  Slow-moving vehicles are not permitted. Cross-traffic is eliminated. If you go off the road instead of paved shoulders they have soft, sandy surfaces or ditches.
  • Highway” includes a common and public highway, any street, avenue, parkway, driveway, square, place, bridge, viaduct or trestle, any part of which is intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles and includes the area between the lateral property lines of any highway or road allowance including any curbs, gutters, culverts, ditches, and retaining wall" (HTA).

Freeways  in Ontario

A freeway is a high-speed and multi-lane road where a vehicle can enter and exit only at certain places. Having limited access allows traffic to move faster.  Freeway is also called an "expressway", "controlled-access" highway, or "express highway". Freeway driving is different from city driving. You almost never need to stop. There are usually two or more lanes of traffic moving quickly in the same direction.  


Picture 2. Example of Freeways

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Freeways  Characteristics


  • Traffic is one way. You do not have to worry about vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. Opposing directions of travel are generally separated by the center median strip with or without a barrier.
  • Entrances and exits to the freeway are provided by special ramps and there are limited (controlled access). These ramps (slip roads) allow for speed changes between the freeway and arterial thoroughfares and collector roads.
  • Wide shoulders provide good escape paths.
  • Signs and road markers tell drivers when they are approaching an exit and help them anticipate conditions well ahead of time to make a decision.
  • Frequent Passing and presence of trucks and other large vehicles may hamper visibility and buffer smaller vehicles with wind gusts as they pass, pushing them a bit off their course. 


 Table1.  Examples of Expressways in the City of Toronto



Name Description 

 Highway 27

Highway 27

It is a short municipal highway in southern Ontario. Much of it is now cared for by the city of Toronto, York Region, and Simcoe County.  Length: 2.9 km.


QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way)

Length: 139.1 km. The Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) is a 400-series highway in the Canadian province of Ontario linking Toronto with the Niagara Peninsula and Buffalo, New York.

 Kings Highway 404

King's Highway 404

It connects Highway 401 and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) in Toronto with East Gwillimbury, and with Highway 407 in Markham. Length: 50.1 km


Most major highways in Ontario are identified by a highway number, like highway 401 or highway 7. The 400-series highways are freeways (equivalent to interstate highways in the U.S.).



Lanes On a Freeway

Traffic in the left lanes of a freeway travels faster than traffic in the right. New drivers should drive in the right lanes until they improve their driving skills and become more confident driving at high speed. You should never drive in the far lane of a multi-lane freeway except to pass traffic moving at a rate below the speed limit.


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Lanes Description



Right Lane

This lane is for heavier and slower vehicles, vehicles entering the expressway, and vehicles getting ready to exit.


Center Lane

This lane is for long-distance driving or passing.


Left Lane

This lane is for higher speed and passing traffic. Large trucks and vehicle towing trailers are restricted from using the left-hand passing lane. They must use the center lane for passing.

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