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This 2009 photo shows the Don Valley Parkway looking south toward downtown Toronto. (Photo by Scott Steeves,


15.0 kilometers (9.3 miles)

"People are saying, 'Save the Ravines!' This project is saving the ravines; it has made the Don Valley accessible to all the people. And it has cleared the place of the perverts." - Bill Weinstein, project manager for the Don Valley Parkway, as quoted in a 1961 Toronto Star interview

THE DON VALLEY'S INDUSTRIAL PAST: The Don River Valley played an important role in the development of Toronto dating back to the 1790s, when the first water-powered sawmill was built at Tormorden Mills. Other industry followed in the first half of the nineteenth century, and by 1850s, a railroad line was built through the valley that still exists today. To improve waterborne shipping, as well as to make additional land available for railroads and industrial development, the City of Toronto straightened the Don River from Bloor Street south to Lake Ontario. The project, which cost $600,000, began in 1886, but was not completed until 1914.

FROM "SPEEDWAY," TO "BOULEVARD," TO "TRAFFIC ARTERY:" In 1932, the City of Toronto introduced plans for a "Don Valley Speedway" to not only ease traffic congestion, but also provide employment for laborers left unemployed by the Great Depression. The Don Valley Speedway was to follow the route of the current Don Valley Parkway from the lakefront north to the area of Don Valley Brick Works Park, but instead of veering northeast, it would have veered northwest toward the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Davisville Avenue in the city's Davisville neighborhood. The city did not have the money to build the highway, and appeals for civic leaders to donate land for the highway went unanswered. In 1939, city transportation planner Norman Wilson, who later devised plans for Toronto's subway system, proposed a boulevard roughly along the same route as the "speedway," but plans were delayed by the onset of World War II.

Postwar traffic demands led the City of Toronto to revive plans for the highway, now called the "Don Valley Traffic Artery." This need was anticipated in the city's 1943 master plan, though the route of the parkway veered west of the Don Valley at Tormorden Mills and continued north along Bayview Avenue, then veered back northeast at Lawrence Avenue toward the Toronto Bypass (today's Highway 401). The 1943 plan featured a spur from the parkway that was to begin near Eglington Avenue and continue northeast past Highway 401 toward Peterborough. It also included an interchange with a never-built, east-west expressway at Bloor Street.

On January 1, 1946, Toronto voters approved construction of the highway by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. The city then borrowed $1.5 million to finance the highway's construction, and in 1949, the city proposed two spurs from the highway: a western spur that would have followed Rosedale Valley Road and Dupont Street, and an eastern spur that would have continued northeast along O'Connor Drive. The western spur eventually become part of a larger Crosstown Expressway proposal (via St. Clair Avenue), while the eastern spur immediately faced opposition from East York Township. Both spurs were never built.

As plans were being developed for the highway, conservationist Charles Saurioi founded the Don Valley Conservation Association to assist provincial efforts to preserve the Don River Valley. In 1951, the Ontario Department of Planning and Development released its "Don Valley Conservation Report," in which it recommended preserving the valley and against developing any new major transportation routes in the valley. Although the province budgeted to buy lands in the valley, the city withheld such funding as it maintained plans to build the highway.

This 1959 photo shows the Don Valley Parkway under construction looking north toward EXIT 3 (Bayview Avenue / Bloor Street), also known as the Chester Hill interchange. The adjacent railroad had to be relocated to accommodate construction. (Photo from City of Toronto Archives.)

"We'll move the railway over a piece. We'll tear down the hill. We'll shift the river over a piece, then we can have the highway through there." - James Maher, Toronto and York Planning Board Chairman

GARINDER CHAMPIONS THE PARKWAY: The influential Metropolitan Executive Committee, which effectively served as the predecessor to the Metro Toronto government, was chaired by Frederick G. Gardiner, a lawyer and businessman who was active in Ontario's Progressive Conservative party. After the Lakeshore (Gardiner) Expressway, which was seen as the top expressway priority for Metro, Gardiner saw the construction of the Don Valley Parkway as the next highest priority.

The Toronto and York Planning Board approved the route of the parkway in late 1953, just prior to the formation of the Metro government in 1954. At that time, the cost of the parkway was estimated at C$29 million. Bill Weinstein, who oversaw numerous highway projects in the Northeast states, including the Merritt Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, and New York State Thruway, was hired as the project manager for the Don Valley Parkway.

The Don Valley Parkway was to accommodate 60,000 vehicles per day (AADT) on the average section, and unlike New York's Grand Central Parkway that served as Gardiner's model, the Don Valley Parkway would accommodate use by trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles. Engineers initially thought that it would be unfeasible to build a six-lane freeway through the Don Valley due to the location of two large hills and a narrow valley, though after touring New York City's parkways and walking the length of the Don Valley, Gardiner and James Maher, who chaired the influential Toronto and York Planning Board, determined that building the parkway would not only be feasible, but also serve to beautify the Don River Valley.

The devastating floods caused by Hurricane Hazel in October 1954 led the city to expropriate several small neighborhoods along the west bank of the Don River. These neighborhoods typically saw flooding after spring rains, but it was too costly to rebuild them after Hurricane Hazel. Moreover, the creation of new parkland would provide an additional buffer zone for the Don Valley Parkway.

BUILDING THE PARKWAY: Construction of the Don Valley Parkway, which began in May 1958, required significant changes to the landscape. More than 950,000 cubic meters (1.25 million cubic yards) of dirt from a single hill was flattened and hauled away, and the meeting point of the west and east branches of the Don River were moved such that the parkway could cross the river with only one bridge instead of two. Moreover, 1.2 kilometers (0.7 mile) of railroad tracks were relocated, as were three pipelines. Although construction of the parkway required the relocation of 40 homes, the parkway was not subjected to the same controversy that the Gardiner Expressway faced, though the construction of the road through parkland was not as controversial in the 1950s as it would be in later decades.

The first section to open was the middle section comprising a 6.2-kilometer (3.8-mile)-long stretch from EXIT 3 (Bayview Avenue / Bloor Street) north to EXIT 10 (Eglinton Avenue); this opened on August 31, 1961. The Bayview Avenue / Bloor Street was a "trumpet"-style interchange leading to a four-lane connector road, which would have formed the eastern terminus of the unbuilt Crosstown Expressway.

A second section, this one 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) long and stretching from EXIT 10 north to EXIT 12 (Lawrence Avenue), was completed in October 1963. The next section, a 3.8-kilometer (2.4-mile)-long section from EXIT 3 south to the Gardiner Expressway / Lakeshore Boulevard interchange, was opened to traffic on November 6, 1964.

The next section of the parkway was a 3.2-kilometer (2.0-mile)-long stretch from EXIT 12 north to EXIT 15 (Highway 401). It was built on the alignment of the former Woodbine Avenue, and was opened to traffic on November 17, 1966. The completion of this stretch completed a direct freeway link from the north and east to downtown Toronto, and to this day remains the only such freeway segment. The Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) built the interchange between the parkway and Highway 401 and maintained control of it, including the section of the parkway through the interchange.

EXTENDING NORTH OF HIGHWAY 401: The final section of the Don Valley Parkway was a 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile)-long section from Highway 401 north to EXIT 18 (Sheppard Avenue), which opened in the spring of 1967. The section was built on land purchased by Metro in the 1950s, continuing north on the former Woodbine Avenue alignment. The final cost of the Don Valley Parkway was C$47 million. Metro had purchased land as far north as Steeles Avenue for a future extension of the Don Valley Parkway; north of Steeles Avenue, the parkway extension was to be known as "New King's Highway." In the early 1970s, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MTC), the forerunner of today's Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) took over jurisdiction of the Don Valley Parkway north of Highway 401. It formed the initial section of Highway 404.

This 1966 photo shows the Don Valley Parkway looking north at EXIT 12 (Lawrence Avenue). Note that the northbound pull-through sign reads "To Woodbine Avenue." Woodbine Avenue formed the alignment for part of the Don Valley Parkway. (Photo from City of Toronto Archives.)

A CALL FOR IMPROVED SAFETY: Even as the northerly stretches of parkway had yet to be completed in 1965, Metro Toronto Chief Coroner Morton Shulman released a report highlighting safety deficiencies on the parkway, including inadequate guardrails, exposed slopes that could be vulnerable to erosion, and lightpoles that did not meet modern safety standards. One step toward a safer parkway was taken in 1966 when emergency telephone call boxes were installed along the length of the parkway. After a 1969 rainstorm that led to the erosion of a slope near Don Mills Road that left the parkway in mud as much as 90 centimeters (three feet) deep, slopes were covered in sod and stakes to help prevent future erosion.

In 1994, the city's Road Emergency Services Communications Unit (RESCU) began operations on the Gardiner Expressway to monitor traffic and respond to incidents. The emergency call boxes were removed, and in their place the city installed traffic cameras, road sensors, and variable message signs (VMS) along the expressway. Around this time, concrete median barriers replaced steel guardrails, and by the end of 1990s, high-mast light towers replaced the low-pressure sodium lights on davit poles.

AND IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY: In 1989, Metro built a new partial interchange at EXIT 11 (Wynford Avenue) to improve access to the Wynford-Concorde neighborhood. Due to the proximity of the cloverleaf interchange at EXIT 10 (Eglinton Avenue) to the immediate south, only two ramps were built for EXIT 11: a southbound exit ramp and a northbound entrance ramp. The northbound entrance ramp was built by jacking a prefabricated concrete arch under the existing railroad tracks. The arch was jacked into the railroad embankment at a gradual pace--only 0.6 meter (two feet) per day over a 12-day period--to minimize freight rail traffic disruption.

Around this time, the City of Toronto studied traffic congestion along the Don Valley Parkway corridor. One alternative offered in the study was a widening of the parkway, but the city did not pursue this alternative, choosing instead to widen Don Mills Road, which parallels the parkway, from four to six lanes, with the additional lanes set aside reserved for HOV-3 and bus use during rush hours.

BRIDGE REHABILITATION: In 1994, the Don Valley Parkway bridge over Pottery Road was rebuilt over a six-month period. Lanes were closed during this period to accommodate the replacement of the main bridge deck and support columns.

In 2019, a four-month-long project brought a major rehabilitation to the parkway bridges at Don Mills Road, Spanbridge Road, Wynford Drive, and Lawrence Avenue. The most expensive rehabilitation was required on the Don Mills Road bridge, though city officials bundled work on the other three bridges to reduce congestion. During construction, crews kept at least two lanes in each direction open, except during overnights when only one lane in each direction was kept open.

FOR WHOM THE PARKWAY TOLLS: By the dawn of the 21st century, the Don Valley Parkway carried as much as 170,000 vehicles per day, nearly triple the original design capacity. In 2001, Councillor Paul Sutherland, who represented the northern Don Valley area, proposed widening the Don Valley Parkway to 10 lanes from Highway 401 south to Eglinton Avenue, and to eight lanes from Eglinton Avenue south to the Gardiner Expressway. The additional lanes would have been express toll lanes, for which passenger cars would pay a $2.00 toll each way. The $200 million project, which would have been funded by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement Pension Fund, represented the first expansion of Toronto's expressway system since the southern extension of Allen Road (Spadina Expressway) in 1976. Although this proposal ultimately was rejected in a narrow 20-16 vote, it did revive discussion about updating and expanding the city's network of expressways, as well as placing congestion-based tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway.

This 2013 photo shows the Don Valley Parkway looking north toward the Bloor Street Viaduct. (Prince Edward Viaduct). Built between 1913 and 1918, the Bloor Street Viaduct carries five vehicular lanes on its upper deck and two subway tracks on its lower deck over the Don River and the Don Valley Parkway. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

GET ON THE BUS: In 2007, GO Transit (now part of the Metrolinx transit agency) proposed a $12 million plan to allow buses to use the center median of the parkway. Although the plan, which required soil testing and an environmental assessment, did not appear in 2008 provincial mass transit plans, the Toronto City Council ultimately approved a plan to allow buses to use the center median from the Highway 401-404 interchange south to Eglinton Avenue in 2010. The first buses began using the lane in September of that year, and the buses are permitted to use the lane when other traffic is moving at a speed of 60 km/h (37 MPH) or less, provided that the buses travel no faster than 20 km/h (12 MPH) above the speed of the prevailing traffic. Buses using the Don Valley Parkway bus lanes can continue north onto the Highway 404 HOV lanes, though there is no direct connection to those lanes, nor can passenger cars traveling in the Highway 404 HOV lanes continue south onto the Don Valley Parkway bus lanes.

NEW EXIT NUMBERS EXTEND 404 SCHEME, THOUGH WITH A TWIST: In 2017, the City signed new exit numbers along the length of the Don Valley Parkway, with the new exit numbers reflecting the distance in kilometers from the south end of the parkway at the Gardiner Expressway junction. Although the exit numbers theoretically are a continuation of the kilometer-based exit numbering scheme on Highway 404, there actually is a two-kilometer difference, such that EXIT 17 on southbound Highway 404 is the interchange for Highway 401, while the unsigned EXIT 15 on the northbound Don Valley Parkway also is for Highway 401.

COMING SOON… A NEW CONNECTION TO THE GARDINER: In 2008, Waterfront Toronto, a private organization promoting redevelopment of the Toronto lakefront, proposed the demolition of the elevated Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street. A rebuilt and widened Lake Shore Boulevard would accommodate the traffic flows from the Gardiner Expressway, similar to what was done for the "Gardiner East" segment that was removed in 2001, and in the absence of the elevated Gardiner, ramps connecting to Lake Shore Boulevard would provide the only access to the Don Valley Parkway. The C$300 million plan had the support of Mayor David Miller, and the Toronto City Council prompted the provincial government to proceed with an environmental assessment. Following the election of Rob Ford as Mayor, who favored keeping the elevated Gardiner, the removal project was shelved.

In a 2013 staff report on the condition of the Gardiner, City staff told City Council that the condition of the elevated expressway had deteriorated such that an immediate decision had to be made on its future. Following this report, the City Council voted to restart the environmental assessment process. As a result of the environmental assessment for the Gardiner Expressway, the following alternatives were presented to City Council for votes in June 2015.

  • Demolish expressway, replace with widened boulevard: C$326 million for construction,  C$135 million upkeep cost for 100 years. The City Council rejected this proposal by a 26-19 margin.

  • Rehabilitate existing expressway and boulevard: C$342 million for construction, C$522 million upkeep cost for 100 years. The City Council rejected this proposal by a 44-1 margin.

  • "Hybrid" proposal to build Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway ramps, as well as maintain existing boulevard: $414 million for construction, C$505 million for upkeep. The City Council approved this proposal by a 24-21 margin.

To build support for the "hybrid" option, Mayor John Tory prompted City staff to study proposals for connections between the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway that would retain as much development potential as possible, including a potential tunnel alternative. The final preferred alternative, known as "Hybrid 3," is described as follows:

  • Remove the elevated Gardiner ramps that extend over the east of the Don River to Logan Avenue.

  • Remove the existing DVP-Gardiner connection and rebuild it to run through the Keating Channel Precinct further north (closer to the rail corridor) and construct a new "tighter" (130-meter / 425-foot radius) ramp connection to the DVP with a reduced speed limit. (The existing speed limit through the DVP-Gardiner connection is 60 km/h, or 37 MPH.)

  • Widen the Metrolinx Don River/DVP Rail Bridge underpass to the east to allow for a more northern DVP-Gardiner ramp location.

  • Construct a new two-lane Lake Shore Boulevard-Gardiner ramp westbound on and eastbound off connections east of Cherry Street.

  • Construct a new Lake Shore Boulevard alignment that runs mid-block through the Keating Channel Precinct plan area.

According to Infrastructure Ontario, the C$1.5 billion project is expected to be built between 2024 and 2027.

This 2009 photo shows the Don Valley Parkway looking north from the Spanbridge Road overpass. Ahead is the Ontario Hydro right-of-way, which has been the subject for potential use for a Scarborough Expressway over the years. (Photo by Scott Steeves,

SOURCES: "Gardiner Wants New Ball Park, Cost $5,000,000," Toronto Star (10/06/1954); "Gardiner Asks Don Parkway, Others Subway," Toronto Star (3/21/1956); "Planning Board Seeks $60,000,000 To Extend Three Expressways," Toronto Star (4/18/1957); "Spend $190,000,000 on Subway in 10 Years, Gardiner Plan" by Lee Belland, Toronto Star (2/04/1958); "The Don Valley Parkway--Makes Driving a Pleasure" by Ron Haggart, Toronto Star (4/14/1961); "New Parkway Has the Same Old Hazards, Say Shulman," Toronto Star (11/21/1966); "Mudslide Closes Northbound Don Parkway," Toronto Star (4/19/1969); "Metro Okays Most Roadwork in 20 Years," Toronto Star (6/22/1989); "DVP Section Cut to Two Lanes Until Autumn," Toronto Star (6/18/1994); "New Toll Lanes Touted for DVP" by Paul Moloney and Joseph Hall, Toronto Star (3/12/2001); "That Time When the Don River Was Straightened" by Chris Bateman, BlogTO.Com (4/14/2012); "The Don Valley Parkway: How Toronto Keeps It in A1 Shape" by Mark Berkovitz, City of Toronto (2012); "That Time Toronto Opened the Don Valley Parkway" by Chris Bateman, BlogTO.Com (8/10/2013); New Implementation Approach for the F.G. Gardiner Expressway: Revised Strategic Rehabilitation Plan, City of Toronto (2016); Missing Links: A History of Toronto's Controversial Unfinished Expressway System by James B. Alcock (2017); "Should the Eastern Gardiner Be Torn Down? No" by Murtaza Haider and Andy Manahan, Toronto Star (10/09/2018); "Gardiner Expressway Rehabilitation Strategy," City of Toronto "Don Valley Parkway Bridge Repairs Will Reduce Lanes for Months, Toronto Star (6/26/2019); James Alcock; Scott Steeves.

  • Don Valley Parkway Shield by James Alcock.
  • ON 404 shield by Josh Anderchek.





  • Don Valley Parkway exit list by Steve Anderson.

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