Ambassador execs say they’ll expand bridge; Owner wants tunnel too

WINDSOR, Ont. – The owner of the Ambassador Bridge will build a new $200 million plaza in Detroit and commence plans to twin the current international crossing despite the fact that a binational committee is still weighing out other major proposals for a new river crossing.

According to the Windsor Star and other media, bridge owner and Michigan trucking tycoon Manuel “Matty” Moroun is also looking to tighten his grip on the border region by offering $30 million to Detroit for 25 acres of land near the bridge and to extend the lease of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

Bridge spokesman Skip McMahon told the Star that the company’s goal is to move forward regardless of what the binational Detroit River International Crossing decides.

Ambassador officials claim they’ll launch plans despite what binational group decides

There are several other border crossing proposals vying for consideration, including: Detroit River Tunnel Partnership’s Jobs Tunnel project which would convert the old rail tunnel into a truck corridor; the Mich-Can plan to build a new bridge via Lauzon Parkway and E.C. row Expressway; and a similar plan being urged by the City of Windsor which would see a new crossing 3 km southwest of the Ambassador. That plan — drawn up by NY City traffic expert Sam Schwartz — would also include a truck-only bypass that would take traffic off Huron Church and up to the new bridge via Ojibway Parkway.

In his analysis of all the proposals, Schwartz said the plan to twin the Ambassador would impact several private areas in Windsor, and would add any redundancy in the event of a crash.

A binational group official on the Canadian side told the Star that any twinning and the proposed “superplaza” — which includes 100 customs lanes — would still require government approvals from both sides of the border.

Furthermore, the paper reports that Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has been reassured by the Canadian Border Services Agency that it has no plans to station customs officers in Detroit as called for under the bridge proposal.

As for the tunnel, it’s expected Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will push city council to issue the green light to Moroun’s offer, which would give the billionaire operating rights until the tunnel is transferred to the Port Authority in 2020. the bridge company also plans to build a connecting two-lane road between the tunnel and the Ambassador – a idea that tunnel’s board has already rejected.

Over the years local media has reported that Moroun and other bridge company executives have contributed significantly to the campaigns of Kilpatrick and his mother, U.S. congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick.

The tunnel is owned by Detroit and Windsor and operated by the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corp., which is owned by Macquarie Bank in Australia.

Last week, Moroun lost a rare court battle over land rights in the Detroit-Windsor border region.

The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a U.S. District Court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Detroit International Bridge Co. against the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership.

The DIBC sued in an effort to overturn the DRTP’s October 2003 purchase of property from Amtrak Corp. The property, acquired for The Jobs Tunnel project, is next to the vacant Michigan Central Depot owned by Moroun’s interests in southwest Detroit.

— with files from the Windsor Star and the Detroit News

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.