QEW: Canada’s First Superhighway

As I continue to evaluate and declutter my library I decided to read, and then part with, QEW: Canada’s First Superhighway by Robert M. Stamp. The author wrote with such a passion for this road, as he fondly recalled taking it during his boyhood from his home in Port Colborne to the wonderland of Toronto. It was such an engaging read that I could not put this book down. Imagine anyone ever saying this for a book about the construction of a highway, of all things. Yet I can only rave about this book. 

The QEW goes through my city and I am very familiar with its intersection at Highway 10. In the late seventies pedestrians could not walk (legally) under the highway overpass and were diverted to a tunnel to the east of the intersection. While the tunnel is still there, highway reconstruction now allows pedestrians to walk or cycle underneath. That is how I always believed the QEW to be. Thus it was a surprise to learn that the highway was originally built as an underpass at the Highway 10 intersection, which is the opposite of how it is today. Stamp filled the book with archived photos showing this area including the landmark cloverleaf interchange. He included photos from various angles which showed the quaint off-ramps to Port Credit. 

In the early fifties those who had homes along the highway could still access it from their driveways. Some would even set up roadside fruit and vegetable stands. The Ontario Department of Highways would not tolerate this much longer due to the number of accidents around these high-risk areas. Thus driveways were sealed off and access roads, commonly called service roads parallel to the highway, were created. Perhaps these homeowners wouldn’t have missed having direct highway access when they realized their property values increased exponentially:

“Through Etobicoke Township from the Humber River to Highway 27, land costs along the highway increased tenfold from $500 an acre in 1945 to $50,000 an acre in 1955.”

Stamp made reference to a couple familiar landmarks along the QEW: the G.H. Wood building in Etobicoke and the Ontario Provincial Police station at Highway 10. I see the latter all the time but try as I might, I cannot recall what this G.H. Wood building is. Surely I would recognize it or remember it if it was torn down after the book’s publication date of 1987. One building from the past that I will always remember is the Watson’s Apple Storage building on the north side of the highway, seen shortly after you enter Mississauga city limits. When a noise protection barrier was built along this section of the highway, it was not needed along the length of the apple storage building. Now that the building has been long demolished, there is still a gap in the barrier.

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