Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The changing ties of Morning Star Drive

Map of Morning Star Drive and the 427, MapArt

Have you ever had the experience of going back to a place you thought you knew well and finding it startlingly changed? This is what it is to grow up in Mississauga and then leave it for a while.
When my friend Richard visited from New England last May, we had occasion to drive up Highway 427, which serves as the border between the City of Toronto and the City of Mississauga. We passed under a bridge I hadn't seen before and I suddenly realized that at some point in the past five or six years, Mississauga had won its fight to bridge Morning Star Drive over the 427 and into Etobicoke in Toronto. For me, a lot has changed at that location.

Morning Star Drive and Indian Line, 1977 — City of Toronto Archives, 1977, plate 96, detail

Up until circa 1980, the 427 used to end at Airport/Dixon Road. The track the 427 now takes was, at that time, Indian Line Road. The main east-west through street in Malton, Morning Star Drive, used to effectively end at an intersection with Indian Line Road. (Note: in these aerial photographs, north is more or less at the top of the picture.)

Morning Star Drive and Hwy 427 intersection, 1989 — City of Toronto Archives, 1989, plate 42P, detail

Not long afterwards, the 427 was extended north, first to Finch Avenue (just out of sight at the top of the shot), then ultimately to Hwy 7. When the 427 took over the Indian Line allowance, it was decided to maintain a level access to Morning Star Drive, via a turn lane across the 427. This led to the rather unorthodox appearance of a traffic lighted intersection on a superhighway, which persisted right up into the 1990s...

1989 intersection detail — City of Toronto Archives, 1989, plate 42P, detail

Here you can see that intersection in more detail. Motorists heading north and wishing to exit to Morning Star would line up and wait for the light to change, then proceed across the southbound lanes and up the ramp. Motorists wishing to join the 427 southbound from Morning Star could also turn right onto the highway (though I admit, I don't recall now if they were prohibited from turning right on the red, though I suspect, given the speeds involved, they likely were). Southbound traffic on the 427 would every so often suddenly find itself required to reduced speed from 100 km/h to a full stop to allow the interchange!

I had my license by the late 80s and actually was at this intersection at least a dozen times. One of our high school buddies wound up living in Malton in the very early 90s, and the fastest way to visit him was to cross Mississauga on the 401, head north up the 427 a couple of kilometers, and then make this turn into Malton.

This was not such an issue when the only traffic southbound entered the 427 only a few hundred metres to the north at Finch Avenue, but quite another as the 427 was extended north past Steeles and on up to Hwy 7. As I said, at some point in the 90s, sanity finally prevailed and this dangerous intersection was closed. But that left Morning Star Drive, which had always had an eastern access, suddenly truncated in a dead end. For a long time, Mississauga lobbied to build a bridge to access the road system on the other side of the 427 in Etobicoke, but Etobicoke always refused. The issue, the last I had heard, was taken before the Ontario Municipal Board. It would appear Mississauga won its case.

Crossing the 427 westward over Morning Star Drive bridge

This bridge didn't exist until fairly recently. I was standing in Toronto (formerly Etobicoke) when I took the shot, looking west into Mississauga. Below the bridge is the traffic of the 427.

Looking south down Hwy 427 to the intersection

Here's the view from the middle of the bridge, looking south towards the bridge at Rexdale Blvd./Derry Road. In the medium distance, you can see the old intersection from the aerial shots, the bare patch of ground that once permitted northbound traffic to access Morning Star Drive. Imagine a set of stop lights here!

The ramp in 2005

On the right in this shot, as I cross into Mississauga, you can see the ramp from the aerial shots as it comes up the hillside. This is just an empty patch of pavement now; no access to either the 427 or Morning Star Drive. Apropos of nothing, you can also see a sign indicating at which terminal certain airlines board. Pearson International Airport is just a few kilometers south of this spot.

The ramp with the turn in the background

How many times did I drive up this little stretch to visit my friend, and then back down again to go home? It seems like just a little while ago, but actually, it was well over a decade now.

Looking westward along Morning Star Drive, the end of the ramp at left

So what you see here would have been, not all that long ago, the corner where Morning Star Drive turned and headed down to the highway. There was no bridge and no traveling further east... though where I stood to take the picture would approximately have been the corner of Morning Star Drive and Indian Line Road up to the early 80s, I suppose.

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