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Highway 406 is the main north-south route though the central portion of the Niagara Peninsula, connecting the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) to downtown St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland, and eventually linking up with Highways 58 and 140 to the south. It is one of the province’s controlled-access 400-series highways, and was built progressively in sections starting in 1963.
TripClip Audio File
Click to play or download Highway 406 TripClip (mp3 format)
This destination is also part of the TripClip tour 'Touring the Twelve.'
The first section of Highway 406 opened to traffic in 1965, from Geneva Street to St. David’s Road. Several other sections were built over the years, but the connection from downtown St. Catharines to the QEW was not completed until the mid-1980s. There are plans to eventually extend the highway to the southern reaches of the Niagara Peninsula, though there is no formal timetable for future development.
In the mid-1980s, Highway 406 was connected from Geneva Street in downtown St. Catharines to the Queen Elizabeth Way through the valleys of the Twelve Mile Creek and Dick’s Creek. This project finally provided a link between Highway 406 and the rest of Ontario's controlled-access highway network. Until that time, traffic had to cross through St. Catharines along city streets in order to reach the QEW.
However, like the construction of the Welland Canal, road construction has had some very significant impacts on the Twelve Mile Creek watershed. Between the Fourth Avenue intersection and the Westchester Crescent overpass, Highway 406 is actually located right within the valleys of the Twelve Mile Creek and Dick’s Creek for almost two kilometres. The highway passes right beside the rapidly flowing water of the Twelve for more than a kilometre where it skirts the southern limit of downtown St. Catharines. It actually runs over the top of the old Welland Canal, formerly Dick’s Creek, which was buried under the Glenridge Fill in 1955.
The construction of Highway 406 engendered considerable opposition from citizens’ groups such as PALS, the Preservation of Agricultural Land Society, who objected to the loss of tender fruitlands and the destruction of natural creek habitat. Compelling arguments were made about increased reliance on automotive transportation at the expense of investment in public transit, but the plans of Ministry of Transportation engineers eventually prevailed.
Routing the highway through the narrow confines of the Twelve Mile Creek Valley presented some challenges and design constraints to the highway designers. The section of highway between Fourth Avenue and Westchester Avenue is a sharp S-shaped curve with a reduced speed limit of 80 km/h. It has very limited shoulder space in some sections, since it is right up against the steep creek bank on one side, and against the watercourse itself on the other side.
As a result of all of this construction and modification, the Twelve Mile Creek valley is now completely bisected by the roadway, and is subjected to noise, emissions, road salt, tire spray, road drainage, and pollutants from the heavy flow of motor traffic along the busy thoroughfare.
The passage of Provincial Greenbelt legislation in 2005 revitalized interest in the future of Highway 406. In Niagara, the legislation permanently protects most of the green spaces, farmland, escarpment slopes, forests, wetlands, and watersheds in the northern part of the peninsula, and the focus of further development has now shifted to the southern part of the Region. As a result, Highway 406 will play a major role in carrying traffic from the QEW to the southern communities, which will experience most of the future expansion and development.
Stamp, Robert M. 1987. QEW: Canada’s First Superhighway. Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ontario.
Below is the path