The Toronto Board of Trade released a report calling for additional lanes on the 401 just days after the city was named the worst for transit in North America. Their report, titled “Three Bold Solutions for the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor,” laid out three proposals to better gridlock in the city. Their introduction stated that not only do the people of Toronto know the pain of gridlock, but slow movement on the roads hurts the movement of goods, thereby increasing the cost of doing business.
Their three solutions were: expanding off-peak deliveries, promoting the growth of Canada’s transportation mega hub, and unblocking the corridor’s biggest bottleneck. They expanded on their plans by stating they wanted to shift “more deliveries to times of day when roads and highways are less congested, saving time and fuel,” create “an action-oriented private led Transportation Mega Hub Council to unlock the full potential of the Corridor’s most important movement goods cluster,” and finally to address “bottlenecks with an extensive expansion of Highway 401.” When it comes to the highway, the board specifically wants to focus on the stretch that leads Torontonians to the airport and create a “Super Express” system that will create more lanes.
These plans might sound like pipe dreams to many, but the board outlined challenges with each of their solutions before providing ways to overcome any obstacles. When it comes to the 401, they addressed how the average cost of expanding highways is easily $100 million per km, their plan may not solve the city’s congestion, and how new highways can cause scrawl. They also referenced a similar project in Texas, saying that an expansion project there cost about $4-10 billion for 20-50 km or two to three new lanes. But, they lobbied for the project, saying that expanding the 401 would offer drivers an alternative means of travel and the city would get a lot of use out of the new lanes.
Funding would stem from toll revenues and the new lanes would be accessible to and offer better transit for buses and autonomous vehicles.
The report also laid out that the expansion isn’t a new idea and the demand for a larger highway is already present in Toronto. Given that the 401 is so often used to transport goods, they argued that expanding the highway would improve trade.