Life Takes its Toll

I am extremely glad I am able to live in an age of progress and innovative inventions, which make our lives easier, and for that reason I am usually one of the first to jump on the bandwagon when something new is in the works. This also of course is the case with highway 407, the electronic toll road which runs parallel to highway 401. It is designed for us North Durham folks who need to make those dreaded trips to the big cities of Toronto or Mississauga.

You can imagine how easy my life became when the 407 condensed my trip to Pearson International, down to 45 minutes. No more back roads, no more traffic jams on highway 401 and best of all, no transport trailers to intimidate me onto the shoulders of highways.

Now I look south with anticipated excitement visualizing the daily progress of the 407 extension. It slices through the center of Durham, separating the north from the south (unless you live in Brooklin, where, in some cases it separates your backyard).

I watched with awe as bridges unfold almost before my eyes and hundreds of workers, dozens of gigantic machines and an endless number of dump trucks scurry like ants back and forth, to bring this ribbon of pavement to completion.

I heard it was to be finished this year, but judging by the state it is that today, I’m not sure about that. I am however, a great believer in truthful government, and will wait with bated breath to see the evolution unfold.

There is one other element to the 407 which has been nagging me for some time and that is the monthly invoice. It magically knows where I’ve been; when I was there and how long my trips lasted. Up until a few years ago there was little issue, but recently my bills have exceeded $200 a month. For that reason, a few months ago, I made a conscientious decision to avoid the 407 whenever possible.

I was surprised at how little extra time alternative routes take. Highway 401, if you avoid rush hour, is not as bad as I thought. Major Mackenzie gets me to Markham 10 minutes later than the 407 would and best of all my bill last month was only $25.00.

I was actually more excited about the two new connector highways that are being built from the 407 extension to highway 401. One is highway 412, and the other is highway 418. 412, which runs alongside Lakeridge, will be part of the soon-to-be-opened new phase, and highway 418 is scheduled for the next leg of the ETR (418 will connect 401 to 407 and will run along Rundle Road, just this side of highway 57).

Highway 412 is particularly exciting for me as it will greatly shorten my commute to 401. That is, until my recent discovery, which blew me away. Both highway 412 and highway 418 are going to become toll roads.

Now, I understand the province needs to recoup some of its cost, however, along the 120 or so KM of this superhighway there are currently no link roads which charge a toll. I’m curious why the province chose Durham to be the first.

Presently, the drive along 407 to the airport and back is $31.00 (providing you have a transponder, otherwise add an extra $8.00). Add another $7.00 for the new phase and when phase two is opened (to highway 57) it will be an additional 15 to 20 dollars. The irony is that I can fly with Easy Jet from London, England to Paris, France for $52.00 (£26), or drive from Niagara Falls to Syracuse, New York (530 KM return) for only $15.

I am all for progress and I don’t have to take the 407 if I don’t want to, however, charging tolls on the two connector roads seems highly unfair and penalizes residents of Durham. Maybe I should jump on the GO bus to Oshawa, hop the train and take the new UP to Pearson instead.

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