By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The newest section of Highway 407 officially opened to commuters on June 20, and for the next six months, drivers can put away their pocketbooks – the new section is free until the end of the year.
The first phase of the new highway, which runs from Brock Road in Pickering to Harmony Road in Oshawa, is aimed at relieving congestion on the much-maligned Highway 401 and is the first among a series of openings expected in the coming years as the toll road continues to stretch east.
In an event held on the previously closed portion of $1.6-billion highway extension, Stephen Del Duca, the province’s transportation minister, praised the expansion as part of Ontario’s massive infrastructure investment – about $160 billion over 12 years – and the impact the expansion will have on congestion.
“The congestion challenge we face doesn’t respect postal codes or area codes or municipal boundaries,” he said. “We have a growing population, particularly here in the GTHA.”
“Improving highway infrastructure is part of our government’s plan to build Ontario up and deliver on our number one priority, and that is to grow our economy and create jobs,” Del Duca added.
The benefits for Durham’s economy were also stressed by regional chair Roger Anderson, who pointed to the popular lands around the 407 that are ready for development, later adding the highway would be a saviour for Durham families.
“It’s going to make a difference in our lives, it’s going to make a difference in your family’s lives,” he said. “You’re going to actually be able to get home and see your family and your children a lot sooner.”
For Mayor John Henry, the opening reflects years of cooperation between the city, the province and surrounding municipalities. In the coming years, he says he expects to see development and jobs coming to the highway corridor – and the types of companies that are attracted to these areas will help provide jobs to the many graduates of UOIT, Durham College and the city’s other post-secondary institutions.
“I’d expect to see the same kind of development you see through Toronto. I picture more buildings, not factories, where you’ll find high-tech companies, banks, insurance companies, engineering companies move into that space,” Henry says.
The latest expansion also includes the opening of Highway 412, which connects the 407 to 401 and runs between Lakeridge and Coronation roads in Whitby. The connection will also be toll free until 2017.
The final section of the expanded toll route is expected to open in sections over the coming years. The portion stretching from Harmony Road to Highway 35/115, and the associated Highway 418 connection between the 407 and 401, is expected to be open in 2020. An interim opening is planned for late 2017 from Harmony Road to Taunton Road.