Tri-Cities? Try Highways!
Kitchener-Waterloo (and to a somewhat lesser degree, Cambridge) is in a somewhat unique situation in Canada, in that it consists of two cities that are very much fused together, yet still separate entities. They’re simultaneously independent and interdependent.
One of the main features in Kitchener-Waterloo knitting the two together is the Conestoga Parkway. The Conestoga Parkway comprises portions of three highways (Highway 7, Highway 8, and Highway 85); it runs from the southeast corner of Kitchener all the way through to and past the border of northern Waterloo, with a branch stretching east to west through central Kitchener, too.
Ever since it was constructed in the 1960’s, the Conestoga Parkway has become a staple of Kitchener-Waterloo life. It makes getting to and from separate parts of the cities much quicker and easier than city streets could allow for. But the Conestoga Parkway is not just ideal for travel within Kitchener-Waterloo – one of its key benefits is its access to Highway 401.
One for All, and 401
Officially called the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway (after Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, and Sir George-Étienne Cartier, Macdonald’s Quebecois ally), Highway 401 is one of the most important roadways in all of Ontario (and Canada, for that matter).
It starts at Windsor, in the southwest corner of Ontario, and runs northeast, passing through some of Canada’s most important – and most populous – cities along the way. Major cities connected by the 401 include London, Kitchener, Cambridge, Mississauga, Toronto, and Kingston. Furthermore, the 401 is the major highway connecting Ontario (and Toronto) to Quebec (and Montreal) – the two largest provinces and cities in Canada, respectively.
To put in perspective just how vital Highway 401 is, the segment passing through Toronto is the busiest stretch of highway in all of North America, with over half a million vehicles passing through it on some days: busier than even Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, it’s also one of North America’s widest highways, with a staggering 18 lanes in northern Toronto.
Back to KW
So now that you have an idea of what the 401’s all about, let’s double back and see how it pertains to Kitchener-Waterloo. The segment of the 401 in the Waterloo Region runs through the Township of North Dumfries, then up along the southeast corner of Kitchener, and finally stretches east through Cambridge.
There are five sets of 401 on- and off-ramps in the Waterloo Region: one near the largest community in North Dumfries (Ayr); two on the Kitchener/Cambridge border (near Conestoga College, and near the Sportsworld Crossing area); and three fully within Cambridge (one near SmartCentres Cambridge and Hespeler Road, and two further east).
Who in Kitchener-Waterloo Benefits from the 401?
The short answer to that question is: everyone. But we’re not about short answers here, so let’s get going on the long answer! First, let’s cover the residents (and residential/commercial areas) that do not have nearby access to the 401 (neither direct nor indirect). For these areas, the benefits of the 401 are less immediately felt, but the fact remains that Kitchener-Waterloo residents never need to travel too far to access Ontario’s major artery (and from there, Toronto and beyond).
It was not for nothing that we mentioned the Conestoga Parkway earlier on! The Parkway’s design and layout means that it passes by quite a few residential areas in Kitchener-Waterloo, as well as the largest malls and shopping areas in the two cities (including Fairview Park Mall, Conestoga Mall, and the Sunrise Shopping Centre).
Waterluvians and the 401
Those for whom access to the 401 is a priority, but who want to live outside of southern Kitchener, would do well to search for homes with good access to the Conestoga Parkway. Waterloo residents have no direct access to the 401, but homes in the Lincoln Heights, Lincoln Village, and Colonial Acres neighbourhoods, for example, have local on- and off-ramps to Highway 85.
From Waterloo, it’s a simple trip south down Highway 85 (which becomes Highway 7 in Kitchener), then southeast along Highway 8 directly onto the 401. All these numbers may make it seem slightly complicated – we promise that it isn’t!