Just where is the busiest freeway in North America?

While the United States may have the largest road network in the world, the title of the busiest freeway on the continent belongs to their neighbors up north in Canada with its Ontario Highway 401.

Known as King’s Highway 401, the freeway also goes by its official name of the Macdonald–Cartier Freeway. A 400-Series Highway in the Canadian province of Ontario, the 401 stretches from Windsor to the Quebec border. The segment of Highway 401 passing through Toronto is not only the busiest highway in North America but also one of the widest and busiest in the world.

So, what makes this freeway so busy? According to a report from the Federal Highway Administration, the annual average daily traffic (AADT) count between Weston Road and Highway 400 in Toronto was estimated at 431,900. On some days, the number exceeds 500,000 vehicles.

Those stats make the 401 the the busiest roadway in North America, surpassing those in the U.S., including the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles, Interstate 10 (I-10) in Houston, and I-75 in Atlanta.

Have you driven on Ontario Highway 401? What was your experience like? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Image: Danielle Scott, PLTam

  1. the 401 is hell…Its unimaginable in rush hours…but whats even worse is your can constantly get stuck in traffic at off peak hours too, which just buids up the frustration.

  2. To avoid traffic I drive the 401 between highway 400 and Leslie St. everyday before 7am and before 4:00pm and the traffic usually flows.

  3. I don’t live far from the 401. Really pretty at night the headlights make it light up as it has 20 lanes. Don’ t go if you want good bumper to bumper traffic. Are government has spent billions on it. I don’t live far from the 401 as its walking distance for me. It less busy in London Ontario with 3 lanes.

  4. It’s the busiest highway due to inept planning. Much bigger cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles do not cram as many cars on any single highway because they have more public transit as well as more higher-speed roadways. There just aren’t enough alternatives to the 401, whether in terms of other high speed roadways or public transit. It’s NOT because we have more people, because we don’t.


  5. Well, when South Park made fun of Canada for having only 1 road, they weren’t just kidding. It might as well be true, because for commuters between GTA and Mississauga, which are two huge commercial centres (GTA/Toronto being home to financial district and Mississauga being home to various multinational corporation head offices), you either get on 401, or you pay $$ to go on 407. If you commute around 35-40 km everyday, even with a 407 transponder, the tolls work out to about $5,000 per year. Fuck us, right? 401’s perpetual congestion (don’t even get me started) is a testament to how incompetent the Ontario government is, with the TTC being another disgrace to Toronto. I have a serious disdain for the Ontario government because of Highway 407 and TTC. Seriously, what the fuck – they sold 407 for $3 billion. And the contract is for 99 years. What the fuck were they thinking?

  6. It takes almost 3 hours to get from Cambridge to Toronto in rush hour traffic. Something that should be a 45 min drive.

  7. Totally 100% horrible. You could read a book on the way to work on a mon morning, it doesn’t move. Ruthless.

  8. Actually Toronto is bigger than Chicago!

  9. Agreed. At certain times……like 3:00 AM…..it IS a 45 minute drive.
    This run is a true test of Google Maps ability to determine drive times! LOL

  10. I agree with you about selling out the 407…….but, you’re forgetting a couple of EXTRA ways to get from Mississauga to Toronto: QEW……and Lakeshore Blvd. Oh……and Dundas St. (Hwy 5)…….and I’m sure a couple of others we just don’t think about…..because we always think about 401/407.

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