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Emergency Detour Routes

Illustration of Emergency Detour Route sign

Ontario's highways carry over eight million drivers and nine million registered vehicles every year. Thousands of businesses rely on highways to move more than $1.2 trillion worth of goods annually to domestic and international markets. The Ministry of Transportation believes that a safe, efficient and integrated transportation system is key to strong communities, economic prosperity and growth.

While Ontario maintains an impressive safety record in North America, incidents occur on provincial highways resulting in delays to the transportation of goods and services and the driving public.

To reduce these delays, the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario Good Roads Association, Ontario Provincial Police, local police and representatives from various municipalities in Ontario formed a task force to develop guidelines and best practices that will allow safe and orderly control of traffic on Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do we need Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs)?

To provide drivers with a pre-determined route when a provincial highway is closed.

2. When are emergency highway closures necessary?

These unscheduled closures are required when a highway is physically impassable or when emergency work cannot be performed in traffic.

3. How long will the Emergency Detour Route (EDR) be activated?

The duration of a highway closure will vary depending on the extent and nature of the incident. Most incidents normally require approximately two to three hours to clear.

4. Who decides when the highway should be closed or opened?

The police have the authority to close highways. An officer at the incident will determine when to reopen the highway and deactivate the Emergency Detour Route (EDR).

5. How will I know what route to follow?

Signs, as shown in Figure 1, will be located on the highway at the start of the Emergency Detour Route (EDR). Signs, as shown in Figure 2, will be placed along the route that should be followed.

Illustration of Emergency Detour Route sign
Figure 1 — Emergency Detour Route (EDR)
This sign will be visible near the start of the closure.
Illustration of Emergency Detour Route Markers
Figure 2 - Emergency Detour Route (EDR) Markers.
Used to guide motorists along the designated route. Follow these back to the highway.

6. I have a large truck carrying an oversized or overweight load. Can I use the Emergency Detour Route (EDR)?

No. Oversized or overweight loads travel under permit-defined routes and are not permitted on any other route. The police will direct you to park in a safe location on the highway until it reopens.

7. I live in an area that the Emergency Detour Route (EDR) goes through. How will I be affected?

While the Emergency Detour Route (EDR) is activated there will be an increase in traffic. This might also include more trucks. Local police or municipal staff might be present to direct traffic at key intersections and monitor the use of the Emergency Detour Route (EDR).

8. How are the Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs) selected?

Emergency Detour Routes (EDRs) are developed by the municipality with the MTO and the police. They are based on several factors including travel time and a route's ability to efficiently accommodate increased traffic volumes.

For further information on Emergency Detour Routes (EDR), contact one of the Ministry's Regional Offices at:

Central Region (416) 235-5595
West Region 1-800-265-6072, then dial (519) 873-4372
Eastern Region 1-800-267-0295, Ext. 1727
Northeastern Region 1-877-366-0669, Ext. 6620
Northwestern Region * 1-800-465-5034, Ext. 2002
* The application of an EDR may not be necessary when there are limited municipal impacts or low traffic volumes.