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skimped on

Highway 407 (Ontario)

Highway 407, officially called the 407 Express Toll Route (ETR), is a tollway located in the Greater Toronto Area, southern Ontario, Canada. It begins at the junction of the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 403 in Burlington, and travels 108 km east to its present terminus at Highway 7 and Brock Road (Durham Regional Road 1) in Pickering. Plans are currently underway to extend the highway further east through Durham Region, eventually ending at the junction of Highway 35/115 near Orono.

Sold to a private consortium in 1999, Highway 407 was formerly planned as a 400-series provincial freeway designed as a bypass of Highway 401, the main truck route through Southern Ontario and one of the world's busiest highways with well over 400,000 average daily trips on a section between Highway 427 and Highway 404.

Major freeway junctions with Highway 407 are located at (from west to east) the Queen Elizabeth Way, Highways 403, 401, 410, 427, 400, and 404. Other major street junctions include Bronte Road (Halton Regional Road 25), Hurontario Street, Highway 27, Yonge Street and Markham Road (Formerly Highway 48). Overall there are 40 different junctions on Highway 407 connecting the toll road with the main transportation network in the Greater Toronto Area.

Unique characteristics

The 407 uses a system of cameras and transponders to toll vehicles automatically. There are no toll booths, hence the name "Express Toll Route" (ETR). Highway 407 is designed as a normal freeway with interchanges connecting directly to surface streets, without the need for toll booth intermediaries (typically via a trumpet interchange) which could otherwise take up significant land. A radio antenna detects when a vehicle with a transponder has entered and exited the highway, calculating the toll rate. For vehicles without a transponder, an automatic number plate recognition system is used. Monthly statements are mailed to users. The 407 is the world's first highway to feature this system throughout.

Description

The original section of Highway 407, between Highway 410 and Highway 404, is one of the better-designed freeways in the province of Ontario because of its recent design.

It was the first highway in almost thirty years since Highway 427 to be surfaced with concrete instead of asphalt, which despite involving a costlier initial investment, lasts significantly longer and has better reflective capabilities (although motorists have a noisier ride). Unlike most American concrete highways where the concrete is a continuous surface on both roadway and bridge surfaces, all 407 bridge decks are covered with an Ontario styled asphalt wearing surface to protect a waterproofing layer placed on top of the underlying concrete deck. Also, some sections of the 407 are paved with asphalt instead of concrete since these sections opened much later (QEW (west terminus)-403; Markham Road-Highway 7(east terminus). It also has a high-pressure sodium high-mast lighting system installed throughout the length of the freeway; only 4 lamps are needed instead of the usual 8-12 since the concrete pavement reflects light better than asphalt. The 407 (along with other recent suburban and rural Ontario freeways) has been designed with aesthetics in mind, with landscaped embankments and storm drainage ponds at interchanges.

Because of its wide median, it has the capacity to be expanded from six to ten lanes (maximum of eight lanes through Thornhill) without having to reconstruct existing bridges and interchanges.

Braided ramps were used to avoid weaving when there were closely spaced interchanges. The high-capacity junction with Highway 400 is considered one of the best-designed interchanges and it is currently the only 4-level stack in Ontario. Another 4-level interchange with Highway 427 also has the capacity to be expanded to a stack if traffic levels warrant.

Safety concerns

When the freeway was opened in 1997, many critics complained that it had skimped on safety features to save money. Many of Highway 407's shortcomings were documented in an independent study which included input from the Ontario Provincial Police. The four-way interchanges with Highway 410 and Highway 404 were intended to be four-level stack interchanges but they were reduced to three-level stack/cloverleaf junctions, with low-capacity loop ramps serving freeway-to-freeway traffic (only the interchange with Highway 400 was built as a four-level stack, while Highway 427 is expected to be converted to a stack when the highway is extended north). Experts were also concerned about the decreased loop ramp radii and a lack of protective guardrail at sharp curves. The lack of a concrete median barrier separating the carriageways has also been a worry, considering the high traffic volumes typical of a suburban freeway and because the lighting masts are installed in the median instead of the shoulder. It was argued that the large grass median separating the carriageways was sufficient to prevent cross-over collisions, since Highway 410 has similar features. Most of these concerns were dismissed on the grounds that it would require an extensive reconstruction of the existing freeway.

Since the lease of the highway's operation, there has been a noticeable decrease in design standards, including straight-sided overpass structures (rather than the sloped design common on most provincial highways), the conversion of dual exit lanes to one exit lane and an additional travel lane in Mississauga rather than paying to widen the carriageway and maintaining two exit lanes, the reduction of the central median and the use of temporary concrete barriers rather than maintaining the median width, and the use of asphalt paving rather than concrete on the Burlington to Mississauga and Markham to Pickering sections. The freeway still adheres to minimum provincial government highway safety standards, although the MTO themselves regularly exceed their own standards.

Inadequate signage leading to 407 has been criticized for being misleading, with motorists incurring bills for accidentally driving onto the 407. Further controversy has centred on the westward extension from Mississauga to Burlington; despite the majority of traffic not using that section of Highway 407, the interchanges at the ends are nonetheless designed with that segment as the mainline through traffic. While this design would have been well-suited to the original design, which was intended to be used for an extension of Highway 403, this no longer applied when it was redesignated 407 and the private operators merely recycled original designs. Because most current Ontario freeways are designed with right-hand exits (while through traffic stays on the left), left-hand exits to the 407 have caused a great deal of confusion with cases of drivers unintentionally driving onto 407 from eastbound 403.

The 407 is operated privately under a 99-year lease agreement with the provincial government. The lease was sold to a consortium of Canadian, Spanish and Australian interests operating under the name 407 International Inc. for approximately 3.1 billion Canadian dollars in 1999. Highway 407 is believed to be the first financially successful privately operated toll road in North America.

Plate denial

Following a judicial decision by the Ontario Divisional Court on November 7, 2005, the Ontario Registrar of Motor Vehicles was ordered to begin denying the validation or issue of vehicle permits for 407 ETR users who have failed to pay owed fees for at least 125 days. On November 7, 2005, Ontario's Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said in a press release, "That is very serious... when it occurs through no fault of their own, but because the 407 ETR electronic system made a mistake."

On November 24, 2005, the MTO announced that it would appeal the decision but would begin to deny plates until the appeal was decided. On February 24, 2006, the Ontario Court of Appeals denied the government leave to appeal the November 7, 2005 decision. As a result, plate denial is once again in place.

Previously, in February 2000, the Ontario government would suspend driver licenses for unpaid 407 bills; however, this practice was quickly suspended by the Ontario government and the new owner of the highway after receiving many complaints from customers about erroneous billing. Between 2000 and 2005 the company said it improved its billing system to minimize the chance of plate denial errors.

The Highway 407 Act, Section 22, gives the owner of the 407 ETR the ability to deny license plate renewal of drivers who have refused to pay their toll for more than 125 days after the toll first incurred. Before the 407 can notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to deny plate renewal or refuse to issue a new plate for a driver, the Highway 407 Act specifies how this process would work.

According to the Highway 407 Act, Section 13(1), the 407 can only charge a driver under two conditions: the name of the person whom the plate portion of the vehicle is issued to, or the name of the person whom the transponder unit affixed in the vehicle is issued to. When a driver enters the 407, if he or she does not have a valid transponder in the vehicle, the 407 snaps a picture of the license plate and receives information about the person the plate is registered to, including the name and address, from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The 407 would then mail a bill to the address that is on file at the Ministry of Transportation. Drivers will have 37 days from the billing date on the statement to pay their tolls.

As the 407 ETR does not implement in a timely fashion the updates it receives from the Ministry of Transportation about a driver's contact information, the 407 ETR may send bills to an address where the driver no longer resides, resulting in accumulating charges and penalties without the driver ever seeing a bill. To prevent this from happening, Ontario drivers who use the 407 ETR, especially those who do not have a transponder leased from the 407 ETR (customers who lease transponders have already given the 407 ETR their billing information and as such are less likely to be affected by this), are required to keep their contact information updated with 407 ETR as they indicate that they no longer receive updates from the Ministry of Transportation. Originally, the instruction that the customer had to keep their contact information updated was only printed on the payment envelope sent with the statement. This information was later added to information printed on the statement itself.

Notice of Failure to Pay

If a driver has a 407 bill that is outstanding for more than 37 days, the 407 ETR will mail a “Notice of Failure to Pay” to the address they have on file for that driver. Unless the driver leases a transponder from the 407 ETR, all contact information about the driver is received from the Ministry of Transportation. At this point outstanding accounts will start accumulating interest (26.82% APR, compounded monthly). Additional administrative fees may also be charged on the account. If a driver receives a "Notice of Failure to Pay", he or she can either pay the outstanding toll or, within 30 days of receiving the "Notice of Failure to Pay", deliver the 407 (preferably by registered mail) a Notice of Dispute listing one or more of the permitted grounds as set in the Highway 407 Act, Section 17(1). The Notice of Dispute is available for download from the 407 ETR's website.

A dispute may not be filed on the basis that the 407 ETR failed to notify a driver of charges. A dispute may only be filed under the following circumstances:

The toll was already paid in full;

The amount of the toll is incorrect;

The vehicle, plate, and/or transponder of the vehicle in question was stolen at the time the toll incurred;

The driver in question is not the person responsible for the toll under Section 13(1) of the Highway 407 Act.

Once a driver files a dispute with the 407, the 407 will have 30 days to respond to the dispute. If the 407 fails to respond for whatever reason, the disputed amount can’t be sent to plate denial. However, if the 407 informs the driver that it does not agree with the dispute, the driver may appeal the 407’s decision to an independent arbitrator appointed by the Ontario government. The 407 will have 15 days to file a written submission once informed by the arbitrator of the filed dispute.

During the arbitration process the plate denial process is not stopped. The 407, however, will not use collection agencies or file a claim for the disputed amount in court. As the plate denial process is not halted during the arbitration process, drivers are encouraged to pay the amount owing or make arrangements to pay as soon as possible. If the arbitrator rules in favor of the driver, the 407 is required to pay the driver the amount ruled plus interest.

If the arbitrator rules in favor of the 407 then the driver is responsible for the toll charges as well as any interest and other administrative or collection fees charged by the 407 if he or she has not yet paid the amount owing. The arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. It should be noted that even while the dispute is being processed by an arbitrator, once 90 days pass after the Notice of Failure to Pay was sent and the account remains unpaid, the 407 will notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to deny plate renewal and issuance of new plates for the name of the person who the plate portion attached to the vehicle incurring the toll is issued to, or the name of the person who the transponder in the vehicle incurring the toll is registered to. By law, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles must comply and place that person on plate denial. At the same time, the 407 must send that person a “Notice of Plate Denial” by registered mail or courier. Once the person pays the outstanding amount, the 407 must notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles immediately to remove that person from plate denial.

Payment Plan

When plate denial was finally reinstated by the courts in 2006, as part of an agreement reached with the Ontario government to drop its legal appeal against the 407's use of plate denial, the 407 introduced a payment plan for drivers who owe significant amount of tolls and fees. The payment plan allows a person to pay the amount owing over time in payments as oppose to paying it all off at once. Qualification for the payment plan, as well as any terms attached to it, is at the sole discretion of the 407.

To become eligible, a driver must owe more than $1000 CAD in tolls and fees and have no other alternative vehicle. The driver must also prove that paying the entire toll at once will basically amount to financial suicide. If the 407 decides that a driver qualifies for this plan, there are specific terms that have to be met. Interest charges will continue to accumulate, in some cases the driver must agree not to use the highway until the amount owing is significantly reduced or paid off entirely, and perhaps most interesting of all is giving the 407 the right to register a lien against your vehicle. In addition, if you decide the accept the payment plan, the 407 will charge a one-time $30 "Payment Plan Application Processing Fee" to your account. This fee too will be subjected to interest. It is added to the rest of the balance on the account.

You are not eligible to apply for the plan if you owe less than $1000 CAD, if there's sufficient public transportation in your vicinity, if it's possible for you to rent or find a replacement vehicle, or if you already made payment arrangements in the past and failed to honour them.

Drivers who think they qualify for the plan have to download an application from the 407 ETR's website. The final decision rests with the 407 ETR’s Ombudsman. Drivers who have been approved for the plan will be contacted by the 407.

History

Highway 407 was the eighth 400-Series Highway planned for Ontario, to serve as a bypass of Highway 401 through Toronto and as a major east-west corridor across the sprawling suburbs to the north of the city. Land adjacent to a hydro corridor was acquired for Highway 407 in the 1960s but it sat vacant for almost thirty years, because the Ontario government opted instead to widen Highway 401 to a 14-lane collector-express system. The Highway 401 expansion project was considered a success and construction of Highway 407 was shelved until 1987.

The first section was completed in 1987 as a temporary routing for Highway 403 in Mississauga and Oakville (after a change in plans, this segment would be permanently part of Highway 403). The next phase to begin construction was a short connector between Highway 427 and Highway 400, and the upgrading of Highway 7 through Richmond Hill to a six-lane grade-separated expressway, which although originally planned to become incorporated into the 407 routing, today runs parallel to the highway. In addition, cross-street overpasses and ramps for the interchange connections to Highway 427 and Highway 400, and modifications to accommodate the highway at the Highway 403/QEW interchange, were constructed by the Ministry of Transportation in the early 1990s.

As provincial funds became severely limited with the implementation of the Common Sense Revolution program, the Government lead by Mike Harris resorted to a public-private partnership to facilitate construction of the highway. Two firms bid on the project, with the Canadian Highways International Corporation being selected as the operator of the highway. Financing for the highway would be paid by user tolls lasting 35 years, after which it would return to the provincial system as a toll-free 400-series highway.

The highway opened in 1997, and highway cost roughly $1.6 billion. The published $1.6 billion cost does not take into account more than $100 billion spent since the early 1970s acquiring the land that it sits on. (Ontario Government Hansard - Wednesday 21 October 1998 - 1520, 1550. Estimates range from $104-107 billion total taxpayer investment as of 31 March 1998)

When Highway 407 finally opened in 1997, tolls were not charged for a month to allow motorists to test-drive the freeway.

As part of a controversial plan to finance revenue for tax cuts, the highway was sold to a conglomerate of private companies in 1999 for $3.1 billion. The deal included an unprecedented 99-year lease agreement, unlimited control of the highway and its tolls. The government also may not build any nearby freeway which might potentially compete with 407; however, the Government maintained the ability to build a light transit system along the 407 right-of-way.

When purchased, the highway ran from the junction of Highway 403 in Mississauga to Markham Road in Markham. Extensions westward to the Queen Elizabeth Way and eastward to Highway 7 and Brock Road in Pickering were constructed by the corporation, as mandated in the lease agreement. Both of these extensions were not part of the original Highway 407 plans; rather, these protected corridors were to be future, non-tolled 400-Series highways. The westward extension from Highway 403 in Mississauga to the Queen Elizabeth Way in Burlington was initially intended to be an extension of Highway 403. (Highway 407 was originally slated to assume the temporary routing for Highway 403 in Mississauga-Oakville and end at the QEW.)

Today, the highway is valued at over $10 billion, and the Progressive Conservative party has been heavily criticized for the poor terms of sale, including underestimating the value of the road. Many "905ers" in the rapidly growing Greater Toronto Area who had been expecting to be served by a much-needed non-tolled Highway 407 consider its sale and skyrocketing toll rates a sellout, thereby significantly eroding the Conservatives' formerly strong support base in that region. The CAA considered the 407 contract a fiasco and adopted a platform where they would not support the tolling of any new or existing highways. Even though the succeeding Liberal government have been unsuccessful in their attempts at legal action against the 407 ETR operators, the contract still reflected badly upon the opposition Conservatives who defended it. Current Conservative leader John Tory has distanced himself from his predecessors on this issue and has said that he would not have sold Highway 407 if he had been Premier.

The company, known as 407 International Inc., is owned by a consortium comprised of Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte (major shareholder) from Spain, Macquarie Infrastructure Group, and Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

Future

Recently, the Ontario provincial government has quarreled with 407 ETR over toll rates and customer service. On February 2 2004, the government delivered notice to 407 ETR that they are considered to be in default of their contract because of 407 ETR's decision to raise toll rates without first obtaining the government's permission. The court's initial decision sided with 407 ETR: on July 10 2004, an independent arbitrator affirmed that 407 ETR has the ability to raise toll rates without first consulting the government. The government filed an appeal of this decision but was overruled by an Ontario Superior Court decision released on January 6 2005; however, a subsequent ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal on June 13, 2005 granted the government permission to appeal the decision.

The 407 ETR is contractually responsible for maintaining high traffic levels as justification for increasing tolls. The 407 ETR conducts its own traffic studies, and reports that traffic on the 407 ETR has grown steadily since it first opened, with over 360,000 trips taken on the average workday. Regardless, parallel roads that Highway 407 would have supplemented continue to grow congested. Despite the self-reported growth of traffic on 407 ETR, the Ontario government had to revisit costly widening projects of Highway 401 and the QEW.

Critics have complained that the rising toll rates have made Highway 407 more of a "luxury" rather than a bypass on existing congested roads as it was initially intended.

Billing

A controversial point is the billing practice in which Highway 407 ETR customer service representatives and even collection agencies may continue to contact customers to pay bills, even in cases where the bill is incorrect or has not been incurred. Vehicles towing trailers can often be double billed or billed in the wrong weight category. Critics of the privatization of 407 complain that the operators use these tactics as a means of gouging money illegally from consumers in order to make up for other "deadbeat" drivers.

Drivers with transponders must be alert and listen for the exit tones from the transponder when leaving the 407, and be vigilant with making 407 customer service aware of transponder malfunction when it occurs. Otherwise, they can face "Video Toll" charges. The "Video Toll" charge will be applied to any vehicle that does not have a transponder.

For drivers without transponders, the automatic number plate recognition system is linked to several provincial and U.S. state motor vehicle registries. Currently only Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Maine, Georgia and possibly several adjacent states and provinces provide 407 ETR access to their registry databases due to the privacy laws of these states. This has resulted in untold numbers of motorists from other jurisdictions being able to travel on 407 ETR without receiving a bill.

Tolls

All dollar amounts listed are Canadian dollars.

The base toll, as of March 18, 2008, for vehicles under 5,000 kg is 19.00 to 19.25 cents/km during peak hours (6am-10am and 3pm-7pm weekdays) depending on where the vehicle travels and 18.00 cents/km during other hours for all stretches of the highway. Upon its opening in 1997, toll rates were 10 cents/km during daytime peak hours, 8 cents/km during daytime off-peak hours and weekends, and 4 cents/km during the night. Current toll rates have increased between 76% and 238%, depending on the time of day, than the rates when the highway opened in 1997. These increases are significantly higher than the rate of inflation which hovers around 2% per year in Canada.

Additionally, there is a $2.55/month or $21.50/year charge for the first transponder, and $1.00/month or $9.95/year for the second and additional transponders on an account.

Autos without transponders are charged $2.55 for each month with activity, plus a $3.60 Video Toll Charge. Upon opening in 1997, these rates were $1 per month of activity and $2 for the video toll charge. For heavy vehicles, transponders are mandatory, with their absence punishable both as a traffic offence and by a $15 per trip surcharge. This is significantly reduced from $50/trip when the highway opened in 1997.

Lane configurations from west to east

Section Lane Configuration
Queen Elizabeth Way to Highway 403 3 lanes in each direction
Highway 403 to Highway 401 2 lanes in each direction
One additional lane per direction currently under construction
Highway 401 to Highway 427 4 lanes in each direction
Highway 427 to Highway 400 5 lanes in each direction
Highway 400 to Highway 404 4 lanes in each direction
One additional lane per direction currently under construction
Highway 404 to Markham Road (York Road 68) 3 lanes in each direction
Markham Road (York Road 68) to Highway 7/Brock Road (Durham Road 1) 2 lanes in each direction

Exit list

Location # Destinations Notes
Burlington Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
1 Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
5
9 Appleby Line
Oakville 13
18 Neyagawa Boulevard
21
24
Milton, Mississauga
28 Britannia Road - Mississauga, Milton
31
34A Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
Halton Hills
Brampton, Mississauga 34B Signed as exit 34 westbound
39
Brampton 42 Mavis Road
44 Hurontario Street Former Hwy 10
46
48
50 Bramalea Road Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
53
54 Goreway Drive Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Vaughan 58
59 Former Hwy 27
63
65 Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
66
67
69
73
75
77 Former Hwy 11
Richmond Hill, Markham
79
Markham 81 Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
82
84
86
88
90
92 Former Hwy 48
94
96
98
Pickering

Proposed

Location # Destinations Notes
Pickering 100* North Road Future interchange
Pickering 102* Pickering Airport Connector Future interchange
Pickering 103* Pickering Sideline 24 Future interchange
Pickering 106* Brock Road (Durham Regional Road 1) Currently at-grade intersection
Pickering 108* Highway 7 East terminus (Currently at-grade intersection) Highway 407 is Proposed bettwen Brock Rd and Highway 35/115. Its ending at Highway 7.

407 east extension

An environmental assessment (EA) to consider an extension of Highway 407 through Durham Region from its current Brock Road terminus in Pickering, Ontario to Highway 35/115 in Clarington, Ontario is underway. Also being studied in the assessment are two north-south connecting highways between Highway 407 and Highway 401 to the south, one located in the general vicinity of western Whitby, Ontario and the other near Courtice, Ontario.

A preferred route was announced in June 2007, and the EA is expected to be complete in late 2008.

It has not been determined whether the 407 extension itself or the north-south connector highways will operate as a tollway or as a conventional free highway.

On March 6, 2007 as part of the FLOW initiative, the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario confirmed the extension of the 407 to Highway 35/115 in Clarington, including the connector highways, with an announced completion date of 2013.

Municipality Exit Number Intersecting Roads Notes
Pickering 111 Westney Road (Durham Road 31)
Pickering 112 Salem Road
Pickering - Whitby Boundary 115 Lake Ridge Road (Durham Road 23) Partial interchange - Lake Ridge Road to westbound 407, eastbound 407 to Lake Ridge Road
Whitby 116 407-401 Durham West Connector (proposed freeway)
Whitby 118 Cochrane Street

Partial interchange - Cochrane Street to eastbound 407, westbound 407 to Cochrane Street
Whitby 120 Baldwin Street (Highway 12)
Whitby 122 Thickson Road (Durham Road 26)
Oshawa 126 Simcoe Street (Durham Road 2)
Oshawa 129 Harmony Road (Durham Road 33)
Clarington 134 Enfield Road (Durham Road 34)
Clarington 136 407-401 Durham East Connector (proposed freeway)
Clarington 138 Durham Road 57
Clarington 142 Bethesda Road
Clarington 149 Highway 35/115 Assumes Highway 35/115 right-of-way
Clarington 150 Concession Road 8 Partial interchange - Concession Road 8 to eastbound 407, westbound 407 to Concession Road 8
Clarington 153 Highway 35 End of 407 project. Highway continues as Highway 115 (a freeway) to Peterborough

Fleet

  • Ford F-series road patrol pickups - Roadside Assistance Patrol
  • 23 snowplows and Tow Plow
  • 24 salt spreaders

Facilities

Maintenance Yards

See also

References

External links

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