Land ownership issue delays ferry access road upgrades
July 1, 2008
WINDSOR, Ont. - Planned multi-million dollar improvements to the Windsor terminal and access road of the truck ferry between Windsor and Detroit are on hold after it was found a piece of connecting ro...
WINDSOR, Ont. – Planned multi-million dollar improvements to the Windsor terminal and access road of the truck ferry between Windsor and Detroit are on hold after it was found a piece of connecting road is not a public right-of-way but the property of a private owner.
The 104×60-ft. section of road is at the very end of Maplewood Drive, in front of the main gate of Morterm Ltd., a large dock and shipping terminal located along the Detroit River.
It had always been assumed the road section was owned by the city of Windsor.
But a title search this spring found that the section belonged to Morterm.
“Everybody thought this was (part of) Maplewood until in this project the province did the survey work and it was discovered that it wasn’t,” said Gregg Ward, vice-president of the Detroit Windsor Truck Ferry. “The city of Windsor, in our 1995 construction permit for our current terminal, identified the section of roadway as part of Maplewood.”
The small but crucial piece of road connects to a private gravel road leading to the truck ferry. Trucks coming from Hwy. 401 or the EC Row Expressway going to the ferry typically turn off of Ojibway Parkway in Windsor’s industrial west end, on to Sprucewood Dr., and then on to Maplewood before turning left on to the ferry terminal road.
Trucks are still using the roadway and there are no plans to curtail access. But unless ownership of the property is resolved soon, major improvements to the ferry terminal might not be carried out this year.
Under a federal and provincial $300 million plan announced several years ago to improve various transportation infrastructure that plays a critical role in the Windsor-Detroit border, money was earmarked for the Truck Ferry Enhancement Project.
This includes paving the gravel road and installing new lighting as well as paving the parking lot at the terminal.
There would also be shoreline protective sheet piling that would require river dredging.
The dredging, which would take a couple of weeks, must be done by October before the onset of colder weather.
A tender call was supposed to have been put out Apr. 23 to begin the project but that has been delayed.
Ward said the province of Ontario has offered to purchase the section of road and turn it over to the city of Windsor. The city is agreeable. He said Morterm is willing to sell if it becomes a public right-of-way.
“It’s just getting all that coordinated and getting it done,” he said. “So that’s the impasse.”
The truck ferry has been in operation since 1990. It uses a one-deck barge capable of carrying eight tractor-trailers and is pushed by a tug boat. It operates Monday to Friday from 7 a. m. to 5 p. m. in both directions.
The ferry offers shippers, typically with HazMat or oversized loads, an alternative to the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which have restrictions on dangerous materials. The nearest HazMat crossing is the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron, 264 kilometres away round-trip. The nearest crossing for oversized loads is Fort Frances-International Falls, Minn.
Until now the only visible sign of improvements has been the installation of way-finding signs to the ferry along the route from Hwy. 401 and the city’s EC Row Expressway.
Mario Sonego, the city of Windsor’s chief building official, said the city has no problem taking over the road after the province purchases it.
“Certainly I would recommend that to (city) council provided that if there’s any repairs to be done that somebody could do them,” he said. “I want it to a certain standard so I don’t have to go and fix it next year.”
Brian McKeown, Morterm’s president, wouldn’t comment on the state of negotiations, calling it a “private matter between two private companies and I’ll discuss it with them and not with anybody else.”
“I think it’s hard for him to comment because nobody has come to him with a formal proposal,” Ward said. “I’m sure it’s been difficult because this project isn’t his project.”
Besides the fact the ferry is used for HazMat and oversized loads the crossing also provides redundancy in case of emergencies at other border crossings.
Ward said his company may expand operations by acquiring a 12-truck capacity ferry but is waiting for the roadway issue to be resolved before moving forward. Two ferries would make it “very easy to get 960 trucks a day going at a relaxed 30 minutes per crossing.”
Rakesh Shreewastav, senior project engineer with Ontario’s Windsor Border Initiatives Implementation Group, would only say the government is “committed to this project and will continue to work with all parties.”