Binational border group advises new bridge crossing

WINDSOR, Ont. (Jan. 23, 2004) — A report published by a binational group of government representatives and business stakeholders has reiterated previous claims that Canada and the U.S. are bound to lose billions in trade if current cross-border infrastructure isn’t improved and a new crossing between Windsor and Detroit isn’t created.

The report, published by the Canada-U.S.-Ontario-Michigan Border Transportation Partnership, concludes the first portion of a six-step, 30-year strategy to improve border flow and east congestion in the trade corridor.

The study states the two countries may lose up to $28.6 US billion annually by 2030 if an alternate river crossing isn’t added to ease the congestion on either side of the Ambassador Bridge and its sister Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, Ont. and Port Huron, Mich.

About 40 per cent of total trade between Canada and the U.S. crosses via the Ambassador or Blue Water bridges. The Windsor-Detroit corridor also handles about 30 per cent of Quebec’s exports, according to Industry Canada. Annual commercial traffic between the two crossings has doubled over the last decade, and is expected to triple within the next 20 years.

The study explores planning, need, and feasibility regarding several proposals dealing with improved current border infrastructure, creating alternative crossings, and promoting new intelligent transportation systems.

Proposals under consideration include the creation of a new bridge, as well as the $400 million construction of a second span for the Ambassador Bridge, a $14 million addition of passenger and truck ferries, or a $600 million conversion of twin railway tunnels into a “commercial truck only” corridor beneath the Detroit River.

Next month the bi-national group is expected to narrow down its proposed sites for a new bridge to three locations. The final site might not be chosen until 2010, and it will likely take several more years to build a bridge or tunnel.

“What we have done so far is conclude a necessary first step which defines some parameters in which we can move forward,” Theresa Petko, vice-president of surface transportation for URS Great Lakes, a designer and consultant on the partnership study, told Today’s Trucking.

The owner and operator of the Ambassador Bridge, which generates $65 million a year in tolls, has been opposed to construction of a new bridge. Owner Manuel J. Moroun has claimed in the past it’s the U.S. Customs Service, and its post-Sept. 11 security crackdown, that’s responsible for the delays and traffic tie-ups, not the capacity of the bridge.

The entire 166-page report can be downloaded by going to the following URL:

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