Example of Trans-Canada Highway marker shield. The name of the province is printed in the ribbon below the number.
The Trans-Canada Highway is a federal-provincial highway system that joins all ten provinces of Canada. The system (not a single roadway — the Yellowhead Highway is also part of the system, for example) was approved by the Trans-Canada Highway Act of 1948, opened in 1962, and completed in 1965. The longest continuous stretch of highway in the Trans-Canada Highway system is recognized as the longest highway in the world, at 7,511 km, taking into account the distance travelled on ferries. The highway system is best known for its distinctive white-on-green maple leaf route markers.
Unlike the American Interstate highway system, not all of the Trans-Canada Highway uses limited-access freeways, or even four-lane roads, making it more similar to the U.S. Highway system. Canada does not have a comprehensive national highway system, as decisions about highway and freeway construction are entirely under the jurisdiction of the individual provinces. In 2000 and 2001, the government of Jean Chrétien considered funding an infrastructure project to have the full Trans-Canada system converted to freeway. Although freeway construction funding was made available to some provinces for portions of the system, the government ultimately decided not to pursue a comprehensive highway conversion.
Route numbering on the Trans-Canada Highway is also handled by the provinces. The Western provinces have coordinated their highway numbers so that the main Trans-Canada line is designated Highway 1 throughout the region. However, from the Manitoba-Ontario border east, highway numbers change at each provincial boundary. As the highway is in many places composed from parts of other important highways with their own separate identities, and the province of Quebec, in particular, is unlikely to change its geographically-based highway numbering system to conform to a cross-Canada numbering scheme, the Trans-Canada Highway will most likely never have a uniform designation across the whole country.
The highway, designated as Highway 1 in the four western provinces, begins in Victoria, British Columbia and passes northward along the east coast of Vancouver Island for 99 km to Nanaimo; a 57 km-long ferry route (see BC Ferries) connects the highway to Vancouver, whence it goes 170 km east to Hope, then turns north for 186 km toward Cache Creek, then east for 79 km through to Kamloops, then 483 km east to Banff, 101 km to Calgary, 293 km to Medicine Hat, 403 km east to Moose Jaw, 79 km to Regina, 372 km to Brandon, 119 km to Portage La Prairie, and 84 km east to Winnipeg.
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The highway continues east from Winnipeg for another 205 km to Kenora. The existing branch from Kenora continues east for 136 km to Dryden. A new branch begins at Rainy River, which goes east for 92 km to Fort Frances. The two branches converge 288 km east of Dryden (which is also 282 km east of Fort Frances). The united highway proceeds southeast for 65 km to Thunder Bay. The highway proceeds northeast for 115 km to Nipigon, where it once again splits into two routes. The northern route is designated as Highway 11, and the southern branch is designated as Highway 17. From Nipigon, Highway 11 extends through the north of Ontario for 401 km east to Hearst and another 213 km east through Cochrane. The highway proceeds southeast for 218 km to New Liskeard, then south for 153 km to North Bay, where it meets highway 17.
From Nipigon, Highway 17 proceeds east along the coast of Lake Superior for 581 km through to Sault Ste. Marie and another 291 km east to Sudbury, where the Trans-Canada Highway splits again. The resulting southern branch follows highways 69 and 400 south for 254 km, then follows Highway 12 southeast for 27 km to Orillia, then follows Highway 12 south for 58 km along the shore of Lake Simcoe, then follows highway 7 east for 70 km to Peterborough. The existing northern branch goes east for 151 km to North Bay. The highway then goes east for 216 km before arriving at Pembroke. The two branches converge at Ottawa, 244 km east of Peterborough and 123 km east of Pembroke.
From Ottawa, the Trans-Canada Highway proceeds 206 km east to Montreal, following Highway 417 in Ontario and Autoroute 40 in Quebec, before crossing the St. Lawrence River and heading northeast on Autoroute 20 for 257 km to Lévis (across from Quebec City).
East of Levis, the Trans-Canada highway continues on Autoroute 20 following the south bank of the Saint Lawrence River to a junction just south of Rivière-du-Loup, 173 km northeast of Levis. At that junction, the highway changes designation to Highway 185, turning southeast for 121 km to Edmundston, New Brunswick.
Following the designation of Highway 2, from Edmundston, the highway follows the St. John River valley, running south for 170 km to Woodstock (parallelling the International Boundary) and then east for another 102 km to pass through Fredericton. 40 km east of Fredericton, the St. John River turns south whereby the highway crosses the river at Jemseg and continues heading east to Moncton another 135 km later.
From Moncton, the highway continues southeast for 54 km to a junction at Aulac on the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border (near Sackville) where the Trans-Canada Highway splits into the main route continuing to the nearby border with Nova Scotia as New Brunswick Highway 2, and a 70 km route designated as New Brunswick Highway 16 which runs east to the Confederation Bridge at Cape Jourimain.
Prince Edward Island
After crossing the Northumberland Strait on the 13 km-long Confederation Bridge to Borden-Carleton, the Trans-Canada Highway follows a 110 km-long route across southern Prince Edward Island, designated as Highway 1. After passing through Charlottetown it ends at Wood Islands where a 26 km-long ferry route (see Northumberland Ferries Ltd.) crosses the Northumberland Strait to Caribou, Nova Scotia (near Pictou). From the ferry terminal at Caribou, the highway continues south for another 19 km as Highway 106 to a junction with the direct Trans-Canada Highway route at Westville (near New Glasgow).
From the New Brunswick border, the main Trans-Canada Highway route continues east into Nova Scotia, where it follows the designation of Highway 104. The highway then passes by Truro, 117 km east of the New Brunswick border. It should be noted that there is a 30-km stretch of toll highway on this section with the cost $4.00/automobile (different rates for other vehicles).
From Truro, the highway continues east for 57 km to New Glasgow (where it has a junction with Highway 106 — that portion of the Trans-Canada running to the ferry terminal at Caribou), and then northeast for another 112 km to the Canso Causeway which crosses the Strait of Canso to Cape Breton Island near Port Hawkesbury. From the Canso Causeway, the highway continues east for 144 km using the designation of Highway 105 in Cape Breton, until reaching the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal at North Sydney.
Port aux Basques–St. John's
From North Sydney a 177 km-long ferry route continues the highway to Newfoundland and Labrador, arriving at Channel-Port aux Basques, whereby the Trans-Canada Highway assumes the designation of Highway 1 and runs northeast for 219 km through Corner Brook, east for another 352 km through Gander and finally ends at St. John's, another 334 km southeast.
The "mile zero" concept
Although there does not appear to be any nationally-sanctioned "starting point" for the entire Trans-Canada Highway system, St. John's appears to have adopted this designation for the section of highway running in the city by using the term "Mile One" for its sports stadium and convention centre complex. Victoria, BC also claims a starting point for the highway system, having erected a "mile zero" monument at the point in the city where the highway system terminates. Although B.C. Highway 4 was commissioned in 1953 and is technically not part of the Trans-Canada Highway system, there is also a sign (http://www.terragalleria.com/north-america/canada/vancouver-island/picture.cabc10924.html) marking the Pacific terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway at Tofino, British Columbia, where Highway 4 terminates in the west, but it was most likely erected before 1953.