Toll Roads in Niagara

Portage Road was established in 1789. The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario was put in place in 1793. On September 14th 1802 Portage Road became a public highway.

In 1792, Parliament of Upper Canada at Niagara on the lake (Newark) passed a statute for labour for the building of roads and bridges. This law compelled all able bodied persons to work up to 12 days per year on road and bridge building construction projects in their respective locality without pay. The time component of the law was later reduced from 12 days per year to 2 days per year.

Town dwellers and landowners were allowed to pay for substitutes to work in their place. In 1840, this privilege was granted to all citizens living within a half mile of a macadamized road.

The Baldwin Act of 1849, provided private companies, willing to build roads and bridges with their own money, the right to charge others wanting to these roads and bridges a toll for doing so. In doing so, the government was to get all cash receipts over a 10% company profit.

One such company to take advantage of this act was the St. Catharines, Thorold, and Niagara Falls Road Company. This company was established and incorporated in 1851. In 1848, the St. Catharines, Thorold and Niagara Falls Road Company constructed a road between the new suspension bridge at the base of Bridge Street and Table Rock at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls.

They also owned part of Bridge Street, from River Road (formerly known as Front Street) to Stanley Avenue, as well as Thorold Stone Road to Thorold.

The company according to the law set up tolls along the entire route. Everyone who passed along the company roads was required to pay at the tolls.

The costs of these tolls were:

  • 1 cent each for travelers on foot
  • 2 cents each for a horse and rider
  • Additional charges were added for a horse and carriage combination.

Three toll gates were situated on River Road (Front Street). The first was located at the base of Murray Hill, the second was located at Hubbard’s Point (near current Otter Street), and the third was located at Morrison Street.

The Morrison Street toll gate operated until late 1887.

Other toll gates that the company owned and operated were located on Bridge Street (formerly known as Chestnut Street) just west of Victoria Avenue, and at Galley’s Corner (Stanley Avenue at Thorold Stone Road).

These toll roads were despised and resented by all the local citizens. One such citizen took it upon himself to tear down one of the toll gates. The St. Catharines, Thorold and Niagara Falls Road Company sued the Town of Clifton (incorporated in 1856) and won a cash award.

Portage Road from Falls View to Chippawa was another such toll road. This road was built and controlled by Thomas Clark and Samuel Street.

Samuel Street stoned this portion of the highway and, while doing this, put toll gates at each end.

A toll gate stood at Falls View just north of the Pavilion Hotel near the current Fallsview Boulevard (Oakes Drive). It was operated by Mrs. Torrey for twenty years. Mr. Street also erected a toll gate at the front of his residence at Clark Hill (currently Oak Hall). This toll gate was later moved to Chippawa.

Tolls were:

  • 5 cents for each horse and carriage combination
  • 10 cents for each horse team
  • No charge for pedestrians

Toll gates utilized were normally of a swing type (the arm would move horizontally) mechanism however Samuel Street’s toll gates were the raise and lower type (the arm would move vertically).

Toll gate keepers lived in toll gate houses, and were responsible for collecting the tolls.

Cheating at the toll gates were common place as was the practice of running the toll gate without paying for same. Offenders if caught were subject to a government issued monetary fines.

In latter portion of 1888, the Queen Victoria – Niagara Falls Parks Commission was established; all the toll roads and gates were abolished. In contradiction to their own policy, the Parks Commission established toll gates at the entrances to Dufferin Islands.

These tolls were:

  • 10 cents for each pedestrian
  • 25 cents for each horse
  • 50 cents for each horse and carriage
  • 50 cents for teams of two or more horses

These tolls remained at Dufferin Islands for several years before the public anger forced the Parks Commission to reconsider their decision and remove the tolls. Technology of road building was becoming much more advanced as was government grants supporting such projects. Bridge Street, Erie Avenue and Queen Street had bricked road surfaces as did Jepson Street from Victoria Avenue to the hospital.
In 1910, Willite Paving Company began paving the first of many roads in Niagara Falls.

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