Ontario Highway 61

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Highway 61

Route information
Maintained by Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
Length61.0 km[1] (37.9 mi)
HistoryEstablished August 18, 1917
Designated October 6, 1937[2]
Lake Superior Circle Tour
Major junctions
South end MN 61 near Grand Portage, MN
Major intersections Highway 130 north towards Twin City
North end  Highway 11 / Highway 17 in Thunder Bay
Highway system
Highway 60 Highway 62

King's Highway 61, commonly referred to as Highway 61 and historically known as the Scott Highway, is a provincially maintained highway in the Canadian province of Ontario. The 61-kilometre (38 mi) route connects the Pigeon River Bridge, where it crosses into the United States and becomes Minnesota State Highway 61, with a junction at Highway 11, Highway 17 and the Harbour Expressway in Thunder Bay. The highway forms part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour.

Highway 61 was added to the highway system on October 6, 1937, following the amalgamation of the Department of Northern Development into the Department of Highways. Prior to that it was known as the Scott Highway. The bridge over the Pigeon River was originally known as The Outlaw, as it was constructed without formal approval of the Canadian or American governments.

Route description

Highway 61 passes by mountain ranges north of the Pigeon River

Crossing the American border, the Pigeon River Bridge is 480 kilometres (300 mi) west of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge and 480 kilometres (300 mi) east of the Fort Frances-International Falls International Bridge, and is near a visitor center.[3] Highway 61 begins at the Ontario-Minnesota border at the Pigeon River; the road continues south to Duluth as State Highway 61 on the American side. Proceeding north from the border, the route passes the customs station and curves to the north. Passing its former routing along Highway 593, the highway curves eastward to avoid mountains.[4] It zig-zags around a range of mountains, eventually turning northward and passing to the west of Cloud Bay. The highway continues north for 20 kilometres (10 mi) through Neebing, running between mountain ranges on either side. It rises at Moose Hill, meets Highway 608 and enters one of the few agricultural areas in northwestern Ontario. Shortly thereafter, Highway 61 curves to the east, passing the southern terminus of Highway 130 along the way.[4] It then enters the outskirts of Thunder Bay.[5]

Highway 61 near Highway 608

The highway passes Chippewa Road, its former route through Thunder Bay, and returns to its northward orientation. It officially enters the city as it crosses the Kaministiquia River. The highway swerves east at Thunder Bay International Airport as it widens to four lanes then continues north, crossing Arthur Street. North of Arthur Street, the highway is also known as the Thunder Bay Expressway.[4] It continues north for 3 km (1.9 mi) and ends at the Harbour Expressway and Trans-Canada Highway.[1]

The northernmost section in Thunder Bay is a four-lane, undivided expressway. The remainder of Highway 61 is a conventional two-lane highway.[5] Traffic volumes along the southern portion of the highway are generally low, with an annual average daily traffic (AADT) of 1,000 vehicles. This increases progressing north; within Thunder Bay the AADT peaks at 17,200 vehicles.[1]

Highway 61 also forms a small portion of the Lake Superior Circle Tour, a tourist route of highways following the shoreline of Lake Superior. To the south, the tour continues along Minnesota State Highway 61; to the north it continues along Highway 17 towards Sault Saint Marie.[6]


The original bridge over the Pigeon River was known as The Outlaw.

The road that would become Highway 61 was first constructed in 1916. The Pigeon River Timber Company had cleared lands surrounding the towns of Port Arthur and Fort William, but no road existed to connect to locations outside. A narrow wilderness trail reached as far as the Pigeon River, and was chosen as the route for the new road. The Department of Mines and Resources agreed to fund the project, and citizens proceeded to lay a new road as far as the river, beginning in 1913. This road was initially known as the "Scott Highway" after lumberman William Scott.[7] On the opposite shore, Cook County and the State of Minnesota constructed a new road north from Grand Marais. The roads were completed by late 1916,[8] but no bridge existed to connect them.[9]

In response, the Rotary Clubs of Port Arthur and Duluth met to discuss a solution. As an international crossing, any bridge over the river would require federal approval from both governments. Both sides agreed that the approval process would be too slow, and decided to construct the bridge regardless. "The Outlaw" bridge was opened by a travelling motorcade on August 18, 1917, finally permitting travel between Ontario and Minnesota.[10] To the surprise of the Rotary Clubs, J. E. Whitson, Roads Commissioner of Northern Ontario, and Howard Ferguson, Minister of Lands, Forest and Mines, were present at the opening, and agreed to pay the $768,000 ($13.8 million in 2021[11]) bridge cost.[8] The bridge and the Canadian road approaching it fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Highways (now the Ministry of Transportation) on April 1, 1937, and the Scott Highway became Highway 61 on October 6.[2] The Outlaw was rebuilt as a steel truss structure in 1934 following several accidents.[8]

The Outlaw was replaced by this truss bridge in 1934. It remained in place until the new crossing opened in 1964.[8]

By 1962, construction was underway to bypass the inland route of the highway as well as the bridge.[12] This bypass opened on November 1, 1963;[13] the American approach was rebuilt along the shore of Lake Superior, and a new bridge constructed over the river 10 km (6.2 mi) to the east.[10] This bridge was opened on May 23, 1964.[8] Highway 61 was realigned as a result; the former route was redesignated as Highway 593 on September 1, 1964.[13]

In 1963, Charles MacNaughton, minister of the Department of Highways, announced plans for the Lakehead Expressway to be built on the western edge of the twin cities of Port Arthur and Fort William (which amalgamated in 1970 to form Thunder Bay).[14] Construction began in the late 1960s and progressed rapidly.[15][16] Following its completion by late 1970, Highway 61 was rerouted along it as far north as Arthur Street.[17][18][19] The former route followed Chippewa Road, turned north on James Street and then east on Frederica Street. From there, it turned north along Ford Street and followed it and Kingsway to Highway 11 and Highway 17 at Arthur Street. This route was renumbered as Highway 61B; it remained in place into the 1990s,[6] but was decommissioned by 1999.[20]

Beginning in 1991, Highway 61 was completely reconstructed south of Thunder Bay to the border in preparation for the 1995 World Nordic Ski Championships. This involved replacing eight bridges, improving sightlines, and adding five passing lanes and paved shoulders throughout the length of the highway.[21] The highway was extended 3 km (1.9 mi) to the north on August 17, 2007, when the Shabaqua Highway opened, redirecting Highway 11 and Highway 17 off Arthur Street.[20][22]

Major intersections

The following table lists the major junctions along Highway 61, as noted by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.[1] The entire route is located in Thunder Bay District.[4] 

Pigeon River0.00.0
MN 61 south / LSCT – Duluth
Continuation into Minnesota
Pigeon River Bridge
Neebing3.15.0 Highway 593
35.356.8 Highway 608
40.064.4 Highway 130
NeebingThunder Bay line46.574.8Little Norway Road
Thunder Bay52.885.0Chippewa Road
54.587.7Broadway Avenue
56.991.6Neebing Avenue
Princess Street
58.093.3 LSCT (Arthur Street)Former routing for Highways 11 and 17
61.098.2  Highway 11 / Highway 17
Harbour Expressway
Highway 61 ends; road continues as Highways 11 and 17 (Trans-Canada Highway)
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (2016). "Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) counts". Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Shragge, John; Bagnato, Sharon (1984). From Footpaths to Freeways. Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Historical Committee. p. 71. ISBN 0-7743-9388-2.
  3. ^ "Chapter 4: The Watery Boundary". United Divide: A Linear Portrait of the USA/Canada Border. The Center for Land Use Interpretation. Winter 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Ontario Back Road Atlas (Map). Cartography by MapArt. Peter Heiler Ltd. 2010. p. 107. § H–J8. ISBN 978-1-55198-226-7.
  5. ^ a b Google (September 12, 2010). "Highway 61 Length and Route" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Ontario Official Road Map (Map). Cartography by Geomatics Office. Government of Ontario. 1990. Thunder Bay inset.
  7. ^ Bray, Robert Matthew; Epp, Ernest, eds. (1984). A Vast and magnificent land. Lakehead University. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-88663-001-0.
  8. ^ a b c d e Stamp, Robert M. (1992). Bridging the Border: Structures of Canadian–American Relations. Toronto: Dundurn Press. pp. 74–76. ISBN 1-55002-074-9.
  9. ^ Angus, Jim (July 7, 2010). "The Outlaw Bridge at Pigeon River". District 5580. Rotary Global History Fellowship. Archived from the original on August 24, 2010. Retrieved September 8, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Wurzer, Cathy (2008). Tales of the Road: Highway 61. Minnesota Historical Society Press. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-0-87351-626-6. Retrieved September 8, 2010. August 18, 1917 Outlaw bridge.
  11. ^ 1688 to 1923: Geloso, Vincent, A Price Index for Canada, 1688 to 1850 (December 6, 2016). Afterwards, Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada tables 18-10-0005-01 (formerly CANSIM 326-0021) "Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted". Statistics Canada. Retrieved April 17, 2021. and table 18-10-0004-13 "Consumer Price Index by product group, monthly, percentage change, not seasonally adjusted, Canada, provinces, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit". Statistics Canada. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  12. ^ Ontario Road Map (Map). Cartography by C.P. Robins. Ontario Department of Highways. 1962. § J13–14.
  13. ^ a b AADT Traffic Volumes 1955–1969 And Traffic Collision Data 1967–1969. Ontario Department of Highways. 1969. p. 135.
  14. ^ Engineering and Contract Record (Report). Vol. 76. Hugh C. MacLean publications. 1963. p. 121. Retrieved September 12, 2010. The long awaited Lakehead Expressway moved to the brink of reality when Ontario Highways Minister Charles S. MacNaughton announced a new cost-sharing formula for the twin cities portion. This fixes the expressway cost at $15,770,000.
  15. ^ "Lakehead Expressway". Civic Administration. Maclean–Hunter. 20: 89. 1968. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  16. ^ Proceedings of the convention (Report). Canadian Good Roads Association. 1969. p. 66. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
  17. ^ "Appendix 16 – Schedule of Designations and Redesignations of Sections". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways and Communications. March 31, 1971. pp. 151, 154.
  18. ^ Ontario Road Map (Map). Cartography by Photogrammetry Office. Department of Transportation and Communications. 1970. Thunder Bay inset.
  19. ^ Ontario Road Map (Map). Cartography by Photogrammetry Office. Department of Transportation and Communications. 1971. Thunder Bay inset.
  20. ^ a b Ontario Official Road Map (Map). Cartography by Geomatics Office. Government of Ontario. 1999. Thunder Bay inset.
  21. ^ "Highway 61". Northern Transportation Construction Projects 1991–92 (Report). Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. May 1991. p. 10. ISSN 0822-1480.
  22. ^ Kelly, Jim. "New stretch of Highway 11/17 to open today". The Chronicle–Journal. Thunder Bay. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2011.

External links