The Trans-Canada Highway: Backgrounder

Highways

The Trans-Canada Highway is Canada’s longest national road. It extends east-west across Canada between Victoria, British Columbia and St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, passing through all ten Canadian provinces and linking Canada's major cities. Car ferries link both Newfoundland and Vancouver Island to the mainland.

Construction of the Trans-Canada Highway began in 1950 under the authority of the Trans-Canada Highway Act *. This act authorized the Government of Canada and provincial governments to build the highway on a cost-shared basis. Together, they funded construction of the highway outside and inside of Canada's national parks.

In 1962 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker officially opened the Trans-Canada Highway, although construction continued until 1971. It has since seen many upgrades, such as twinning busy sections and adding lanes. Since 1971, some provinces have designated additional road links as part of the Trans-Canada Highway, even though they were not built under the Trans-Canada Highway Act.

Today's Trans-Canada Highway is not a single route. It consists of several different routes that cross Canada. Two run from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick, one of which travels to Prince Edward Island by way of the Confederation Bridge. There are also two routes that begin west of Montreal and a few routes through Ontario. Travelling west, the main Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) passes through Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Banff. It then takes the highly scenic Kicking Horse Pass through the Canadian Rockies and continues through Kamloops to Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

In 1970, a northern route called Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) was officially opened across Western Canada. Highway 16 splits from the main Trans-Canada Highway just west of Winnipeg at Portage La Prairie and then passes through Saskatoon, Edmonton, Hinton and Jasper. It takes the Yellowhead Pass through the Rocky Mountains all the way to the town of Tête Jaune Cache, British Columbia. The highway continues west to Prince George, and reaches the Pacific Ocean at Prince Rupert.

Today, most highway and road construction is a provincial responsibility. Provinces decide on the design, construction, safety standards and financing of highways under their jurisdiction. The Government of Canada, however, is solely responsible for the maintenance and repair of the Trans-Canada Highway inside national parks

Transport Canada recognizes the value of these routes to our nation's economy and is helping the provinces finance the upgrades needed in this age of increasing traffic volumes.

* For a copy of the 1949 Trans-Canada Highway Act, please contact the Library of Parliament

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