DETROIT, Mich. – A dedicated truck road, long in the planning, has finally opened on the Detroit side of the Ambassador Bridge, a win-win for truckers who no longer have to navigate the streets of inner city Detroit, and for neighbourhood...
DETROIT, Mich. – A dedicated truck road, long in the planning, has finally opened on the Detroit side of the Ambassador Bridge, a win-win for truckers who no longer have to navigate the streets of inner city Detroit, and for neighbourhood residents long upset about truck noise and fumes.
The 2,500-ft., two-lane road means truckers will no longer have to navigate streets such as 15th, Lafayette and Rosa Parks going east and north, and Fort St. running south, to connect to Interstates 75 and 96.
All trucks, regardless of whether they had expedited cargo, were subject to the meandering routes. Now, when they exit US Customs they turn right and head south parallel to Fort St. until the road loops northeast and connects to ramps to I-75 north and south, and to I-96 north.
At a ceremony to mark the opening, project consulting engineer Victor Judnic said truckers, “have got to be happy because what took them probably five to 10 minutes to get to a freeway, now they’re within a couple of minutes. I mean, just the time and the fuel, they’ve got to be tickled pink. (The road) is dedicated to them and they hop on the freeway and they’re flying. This is going to have an economic impact no doubt.”
Indeed, truckers were honking their horns and waving at dignitaries and media as they drove past along the road. But while the US-inbound road and ramps are now complete, work still has to be done to make a seamless entrance from US freeways heading across the Ambassador to Canada.
“There’s a lot of work left to complete,” Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project engineer Tia Klein said. “There’s ramps that we have completed but we can’t open yet until there’s a roadway that we have to construct” within the Customs plaza itself.
That’s expected to be completed by September or October.
The truck road announcement came after a prolonged court battle between the Michigan government and the ownership of the Ambassador Bridge over the building of the road.
Finally, on March 8, a Detroit judge ordered the state to take over work after the company did not complete the job.
The court said the company was in defiance of an agreement with MDOT to build certain facilities as part of the $230-million Gateway project, a vast reconfiguration of ramps and freeways making it easier to enter and exit the bridge.
“Unfortunately after repeated attempts to get (the company) to cooperate we were forced to go to court and enforce the contract,” Tony Kratofil, MDOT Detroit regional engineer, said.
The company maintains it was proceeding on the road but the state kept changing specifications. Twice the company was found in contempt and its two top officials briefly jailed.
Finally the court ordered the state to take over the project and the company to deposit $16 million to pay for the work. After the announcement the company immediately mocked the state for its one-sidedness.
Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) president Dan Stamper said in a statement, “If the opening of a single truck ramp by MDOT causes a ceremony just think of the major party we could have if MDOT opened the other three connecting ramps they have barricaded for the last three-and-a-half years,” a reference to what the company alleges has been a deliberate attempt by MDOT to block inbound ramps to the bridge, in an effort to put pressure on DIBC.
The truck road and Gateway project is separate from a planned new Windsor-Detroit bridge, which still has not been approved by the Michigan Legislature.
The truck road announcement was made the morning of May 15 but the route actually opened the day before, as the contractor completed work ahead of schedule.
“As of 3:40 p.m. yesterday and forevermore, never again will trucks use (Fort St.) to go directly to I-75 and I-96,” Kratofil said. “MDOT has done everything in our power to expedite every step of this process and complete the truck road as quickly as possible.” Construction began April 14.
The announcement was greeted positively by neighbourhood activists, who held signs saying “Community Health.”
“I’m so happy for the people who had to live hour-by-hour, day-by-day, year-by-year with a constant stream of heavy traffic causing noise and vibration and pollution, stopping in their neighbourhoods,” said state Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.
Elected state representative for southwest Detroit Rashida Tlaib said her community used “unorthodox ways of trying to get attention to this issue and it was fun. We blocked trucks. We sent these beautiful, ‘We have the right to breathe’ cards out to our elected officials. We did everything from tearing down fences, to blocking the trucks, to calling out elected officials for not standing up for us.”
Tlaib said that, “for the trucking community this means easier access to the freeways after delivery of goods.”