Ontario first in Canada to adopt Swedish road design

The 2+1 design has been proven to dramatically reduce accident deaths and injuries around the world.


Key Takeaways:

  • Ontario will build the first 2+1 highway project in North America.
  • The road design was first conceived in Sweden where vehicle accident death rates have plummeted.
  • The change has long been advocated for by road safety groups.

The Whole Story:

Ontario is embarking on an innovative road project that will see North America’s first ever 2+1 highway. While it’s a first for this continent, it has been widely used elsewhere in the world.

What is a 2+1?

No, it’s not a math problem from your first grade textbook. 

A 2+1 highway is a three-lane highway with a centre passing lane that changes direction approximately every two to five kilometres. Officials stated that the highway model is used in other jurisdictions around the world and is more cost efficient than twinning a highway.

An infographic shows how a 2+1 road system works. – Ontario Ministry of Transportation

“This first of its kind highway pilot in North America will keep people and goods moving safely across Northern Ontario,” said Caroline Mulroney, minister of transportation. “This is a key next step to get shovels in the ground on critical infrastructure projects that will support a strong transportation network and create jobs.”

RFP issued by Ministry of Transportation 

This November the province issued a request for proposals (RFP) to implement the model on Highway 11 north of North Bay.

Qualified highway design consultants can submit their proposals for design and environmental assessment work through the Ministry of Transportation’s e-tendering portal until December 2022. The province will evaluate submissions and announce the successful bidder in 2023.

“The 2+1 highway project is an important part of our government’s plan to build Ontario,” said Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job Creation and trade, and MPP for Nipissing. “This pilot project will help address the unique transportation needs of people and businesses in Northern Ontario that rely on our roads and highways to get where they need to go. Together, we’re strengthening the economy and growing the North.”

Made in Sweden

The concept is widely used outside of North America. It was first built out in Sweden which was experiencing high rates of vehicle accidents and deaths. In the 1980s, comprehensive accident data by road type became available revealing wide two-lane roads and especially semi-motorways had the worst safety records of all road types in terms of fatalities and severe injuries. Almost 100 out of a total 400 people killed per year on state roads died on these wide two-lane roads making them an extreme fatality risk. 

Dramatic safety results

The Swedish Road Administration proposed the 2+1 concept as a low-cost solution and it was implemented in the 1990s. Now thousands of kilometres of Swedish roads are 2+1. A study that analyzed accident data before and after the implementation showed the total number of fatalities and seriously injured decreased by 50 per cent and the total number of personal injury crashes decreased by 21 per cent.

Researchers also found the severity consequence – the rate of the number of killed and seriously injured divided by the number of personal injury crashes – decreased by 38 per cent.

The concept has since been adopted in many other countries. Sweden was presented with the Global Innovation Award in 2020 for the 2+1 road concept. 

Going the Extra Mile for Safety (GEMS), a road safety advocacy group based in Ontario, has long advocated for the 2+1 system.

“We’re excited to see the 2+1 pilot project moving forward. We’ve been working with Ontario for several years regarding safety on Highway 11 and have advocated for the 2+1 model,” said Helene Culhane, chair of GEMS. “It is gratifying to see our hard work is paying off. Our main goal has always been the safety of our roads and our travellers, and we can’t thank the Ministry enough for delivering on their promise.”


Get smarter on the 🇨🇦 construction industry in just 5 minutes

Sign up for the free weekly newsletter for news, trends and insights in the Canadian construction industry.

Construction job board

Discover senior-level construction jobs at leading companies in Canada.

Find a jobPost a job



Get the 5-minute, weekly newsletter about the Canadian construction industry.

© SiteNews 2024. All rights reserved. SiteNews is an independently-operated news website. Views expressed are that of the editor's and are based on publicly available information unless otherwise noted through sponsored content.