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Opening of the Trans-Canada Highway

It's the world's longest national highway. At 7,821 kilometres, it stretches from Victoria, B.C., to St. John's, Nfld., and through every province in between. Constructed over some of the world's most treacherous terrain, it took 20 years and $1 billion to complete. The Trans-Canada Highway fulfilled a dream — to open up new regions of the country, usher in new economic prosperity and make fellow Canadians…just a car ride away.

Twelve years after construction began, the 7,821-kilometre Trans-Canada officially opens. Although over 3,000 kilometres are still unpaved, and Newfoundland's section is still under construction, Canadian motorists can now drive from the Atlantic to the Pacific on a single highway.
On September 3, 1962, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and representatives from all ten provinces attend the opening ceremonies at Rogers Pass. CBC Television cameras roll as the prime minister declares the Trans-Canada Highway officially open.
• According to Prime Minister Diefenbaker, Rogers Pass was selected for the site of the opening ceremonies, in part, because Mount MacDonald and Mount Tupper, named for two Fathers of Confederation, look down on the area.
• The Trans-Canada Highway was finally completed and paved end-to-end in 1970 -- 14 years after it was originally to have been finished.
• Total construction costs for the highway came to over $1 billion.

• The highway was originally 7,821 kilometres, but new branches have been added since 1962. In 1999, there were 12,950 kilometres of roads, bridges, tunnels and ferry-crossings.
• Newfoundland's portion of the Trans-Canada Highway wasn't completed until 1966.
• Premier Joey Smallwood and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson attended the official opening ceremony on July 12, 1966, at Pearson's Peak, the mid-point of the Newfoundland section of the highway.

• There were several reasons why Newfoundland was the last province to finish building its part of the highway. Newfoundland had the second-longest distance to cover, after Ontario, and the most difficult terrain, after British Columbia. With a population of 500,000, it had the second smallest number of people to absorb the costs, and its per capita income was the lowest.
• The first car crossed Newfoundland in 1958. In fact, five Land Rovers made the drive together, and Premier Smallwood was at the steering wheel of the head car.

• In 1947, the Yellowhead Highway Association formed with the goal of convincing the federal government to build the Trans-Canada Highway through a northern route in the west. Motorists would travel through Saskatoon, Edmonton, and the Yellowhead Pass.
• The government selected the more southerly route instead. However, the Yellowhead Highway was officially designated a part of the Trans-Canada Highway system in 1986.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: Sept. 8, 1962
Guest(s): John Diefenbaker
Reporter: Ted Reynolds
Duration: 3:10

Last updated: September 4, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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