5 Ontario Highway Ramps to Avoid

Associate Editor Teona Baetu with her 2010 Impala, named Bella. Photo credit: Peter Carter.

TORONTO- Psst, I want to let you in on a little personal secret: a few months ago, I got my driving licence. And last month, I bought my first car: a pretty, not-so-little Chevy Impala in navy blue.

And do you remember what it’s like to drive the first car you actually own? My Chevy ain’t new, but it’s new to me and so I want to keep it in pristine condition, no dirt, bruises, dents or scratches.

Trouble is, the only folks I trust to drive safely and professionally on the road are truck drivers; and some sane four-wheelers who are probably truck drivers in their off-duty family vehicles.

And since some situations do scare me, I asked Geoffrey Medweth, a veteran truck driver with a lot of driving experience behind him, for areas around Ontario to avoid.

Baetu and Bella drive 33 km to and from Today’s Trucking’s office each day. Photo credit: Peter Carter

Here are the five worst ramps, according to Medweth, in order from least bad to the worst:

5. The eastbound 401 off-ramp at Warden Avenue: This puppy is really sneaky especially for those wanting to go south on Warden. The ramp is very flat, with a hard right curve that fans out into three turning lanes. To go south you must exit not off the deceleration lane, but the granny lane of the 401. If you are going much more than 40 km, the momentum will throw you off the elevated ramp onto your side. Nothing like going half the speed limit down the 401.

4.  The Gardiner-QEW – Kipling and Islington: These two bad boys are both a modified cloverleaf and there is no luck in them-there clovers. Too short to slow down on and too short to speed up on and what`s worse, traffic has to go both ways on the same ramp.  Traffic trying to get off gets tangled up with traffic trying to get on.  What`s more, they are spaced barely a mile apart. No wonder that highway is always a mess. How about closing one and making one super-ramp that people can actually speed up and slow down on?

3.  Toronto-Bound QEW exit to Highway 20: The ramp is actually fine, but when you get to the end, there is a stop sign, no traffic light and the stop is only for those coming off the QEW. I’m not a fan of traffic lights, but if an intersection ever needed one, it’s this one. In a piece of what I am sure is well-intentioned neighborhood beautification, there is a small forest in the median. You can`t see anyone coming at you from your right. You must cross over two lanes, the median and then hold your breath.  Because of a slight bend in the road, and the need to get around the curb in the median, one must leave the trailer hanging in the northbound lane, while trying to lean forward to see who is going to come zooming out of the forest. The simple remedy would be to make it a four-way stop. What will probably eventually happen is a crash, blamed on poor visibility, a costly study and a traffic light.

2.  The onramp from Lakeshore Boulevard to the Gardiner Expressway at Jameson: A quarter-kilometer ramp onto an expressway where, in theory, traffic is travelling at 90 to 300 km an hour. I should add that you cannot see the traffic until you are three quarters of the way down the ramp.  Yes, I know that ramp is downhill but let’s do some quick math.

The ramp is, say 400 meters. You cannot get a good look at traffic until you are 250 meters down.  By that time you are travelling at about 60 km, and probably speeding up. By my estimation, that leaves 150 metres to gun it and try to squeeze into a hole or to try to slow down. It will take you one second to look, one second to recognize and one second to react. Now you probably got about 125 meters. Enjoy this version of the trucker’s roller coaster.

1.   The 401 collectors from the 427 to the 400 eastbound: This is the granddaddy of all accidents waiting to happen.  The confluence of the 401 going east, the 427 and 409 highways ramps and you have three major arterial roads, Dixon, Islington and Weston. Add to that, the on ramp from Weston Road is also the off ramp to get off the 401 to the 400 and Black Creek Drive. This is a funnel of traffic. Cars and trucks slicing and dicing to get on and off the road.

This summer they threw in the joy of construction on the 400 northbound ramps, express and collectors. And if you manage to get off the highway without incident, and your sanity, there are eight sets of rumble strips that will shake the fillings out of your teeth. Get through that, and they put a near hairpin turn and a ridge at the end. You can see the flatbeds twisting.

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