Coalition looks to replace border rail tunnel

WINDSOR, Ont. — As the political battle continues for construction of new bridges across the Detroit River, a new group has formed to try and undercut the process.

And by undercut we mean the river itself.

The Windsor Port Authority, along with Borealis Infrastructure — a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System — and Canadian Pacific have formed the Continental Rail Gateway coalition (CRG) to pursue opportunities for the development, funding and construction of a replacement rail tunnel under the Detroit River.

The current freight tunnel, which carries approximately 350,000 rail cars each year, opened in 1909. While the group says it is still in excellent condition, it cannot handle double-stacked, 9’ 6” containers and some new generations of multilevel rail cars used by shippers and auto manufacturers.

The tunnel clearance was enlarged once in 1994 and can’t be further expanded. CRG says replacing the 100-year-old train tunnel is a key step toward making the strategically located region of Windsor/Detroit more competitive as a logistics hub for manufacturers, agricultural shippers, and other importers and exporters.

Earlier this month, the project description for the CRG was submitted to Transport Canada as the first formal document submitted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). In addition, work with U.S. regulators will continue on environmental reviews that began in 2009 with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Government and business leaders have committed to the vision of realistic, cross-border cooperation outlined at a HUB ’09 conference in Windsor last year," says David Cree, president and CEO of the Windsor Port Authority. "This new cooperative agreement fortifies the goals we discussed. A larger replacement rail tunnel is critical to creating jobs and turning Windsor-Detroit into one of the most significant logistics hubs in the Midwest."

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