Bridge and border officials discuss improvements to truckers’ congestion woes
November 1, 2005
The recent Ontario Trucking Association annual convention saw a gathering of officials from US and Canadian border agencies and bridge operators, on hand to discuss border issues and infrastructure im...
The recent Ontario Trucking Association annual convention saw a gathering of officials from US and Canadian border agencies and bridge operators, on hand to discuss border issues and infrastructure improvements that are working to reduce congestion. Here’s a look at what may make life easier for fleets making border runs.
Windsor-Detroit: Ambassador Bridge
In the Detroit area, federal and state governments are currently implementing the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project. In his address to OTA attendees, Thomas “Skip” McMahon, director special projects, Detroit International Bridge Company, noted there are plans to enhance the US plaza to a total of 16 lanes, to directly connect the truck ramp exiting the plaza to Interstate 1-75, and to construct ramps leading to Interstate-96. Phases five and six of the gateway project will go forward over the next two years, he said, with the Ambassador Bridge Gateway project completion scheduled for fall 2007.
“Every facility is running better this year than a year ago. We’re working with the city of Detroit to move business further west so as not to affect the local community.” The real issue in Windsor, noted McMahon, is that the highway doesn’t come to the foot of the bridge. “As (bridge) operators we can tell you, don’t give me a new bridge, give me more inspection lanes and more bodies, and you won’t see a backup,” he added.
Earlier this year in February the governments of Canada and Ontario launched the Canadian Environmental Assessment (EA) phase of the Detroit River International Crossing project which will allow the governments to decide on the location of a new or expanded crossing and to ensure that all regulatory requirements are met and a new or expanded crossing can be operational by 2013.
Five projects announced as Phase 1 of the Strategy are already under way and will be completed by 2006-2007. They include improvements to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Plaza, improvements to the intersection of Industrial Road at Huron Church Road to facilitate access to a pre-processing facility; and implementation of intelligent transportation systems to improve traffic management, control and driver information. Recent measures such as the addition of four new US-bound commercial customs inspection booths in June 2004 have aimed to reduce queuing along Huron Church Road.
Sarnia/Port Huron: Blue Water Bridge
The fourth busiest Canada-US crossing for total vehicles and the second busiest for the number of commercial vehicle crossings, the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron will see a number of improvements, said Morris Hall, of Michigan’s Department of Transportation. On June 9, 2005, agreements were reached that are expected to increase capacity on the US side of the Blue Water Bridge by 17%. The bridge authority has teamed up with US Customs and Border Protection to make the current lanes more efficient, seeking to add FAST and NEXUS capabilities to more lanes for high peak times. Multi-use lanes can be designated as FAST lanes both going in and out. The US plaza is above grade which restricts its expansion capabilities, said Hall, so plans for a US plaza expansion will concentrate efforts on expanding the existing plaza about 65 acres. Consultants, he added, have also suggested moving the plaza to a remote site, out about two miles, to reduce congestion on Hwy. 402 in Ontario and to make any future expansion of the plaza possible.
Stan Korosec, president of the Blue Water Bridge Authority said there are also plans for a new Canadian plaza to the south and east in order to add 24 inspection booths, with dual use lanes to accommodate both trucks and cars, and the construction of a truck ramp for easy access to Hwy 402. A COMPASS camera system is also in the works for spring 2006. A study is currently underway to look at widening the Hwy. 402 approach from two to four lanes.
Fort Erie/Buffalo: Peace Bridge
Ron Rienas, general manager for the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, said that new Customs booths were recently opened on the US side. Prior to these opening there were some routine delays, he said, but now there are six to seven FAST compliant lanes fully operational. Plans are in the works to redevelop the Canadian plaza, with completion scheduled for spring 2007, to offer improved egress off the bridge and more car queuing capacity.
There are also plans for the creation of a truck-staging yard for trucks entering the US with aim to reducing backups on the Queen Elizabeth Expressway in southern Ontario.
Niagara Falls-Queenston Lewiston Bridge
The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge is Canada’s fourth busiest commercial border crossing with more than one million truck crossings every year. A $45-million, fifth-lane Queenston-Lewiston Bridge expansion project has recently been completed. The fifth lane will be available primarily to commercial trucks enrolled in the bi-national Canada-U.S. Free and Secure Trade pre-screening program.
In addition to the new lane on the bridge itself, new lanes on Highway 405 are now open for trucks travelling to the US, beginning well back from the bridge, which officials say will improve safety and reduce congestion. Brent Gallaugher, manager of agency relations, Queenston Lewiston Bridge, said the new lane on the bridge would be an eventual bona fide FAST lane, with a dedicated FAST booth expected early in the New Year.