EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Big Three support separate Windsor-Detroit bridge

LANSING, Mich. — In what might be their first clear statement on the controversial matter, the Big Three automakers have authored a letter indicating their full support for a new, separate bridge crossing southwest of the Ambassador Bridge.

Automakers have the most to lose when trucks
are stuck at the only viable current crossing.

In a letter addressed to Michigan Senator Alan Cropsey, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association — which include GM, Ford, and Chrysler as members — both stressed the importance of the binational Detroit River International Crossing’s (DRIC) decision to build a new bridge in order to maintain just-in-time deliveries in the auto sector.

“The need for an additional crossing to handle current and future trade flows is widely acknowledged and it is imperative that this new crossing be completed as soon as possible,” stated the letter, obtained by TodaysTrucking.com. “In light of the importance of efficient and effective infrastructure to the success of the automotive industry, we strongly support the partnership between the governments of Michigan and Ontario as well as Canada and the United States and their work toward securing a new gateway at Detroit-Windsor.”

The letter, which is signed by AAM and CVMA executives John Whately and Mark A. Nantais, urges the State of Michigan not to withdraw support from the DRIC — an option recently placed in a state budget amendment.

“Given the strategic importance of the Detroit-Windsor link we urge the government of Michigan to reject this amendment and maintain the Detroit-Windsor infrastructure as a top priority,” the letter says. “Additionally,
we ask for your support for the necessary budget resources to ensure the completion of DRIC which will lead to a new border crossing in the 2013 timeframe.”

Some observers have wondered for years just where the largest automakers officially stood on the issue. Considering the number of auto-related truckloads that cross the Windsor-Detroit Gateway each day, the Big Three arguably have the most to gain from more border crossing redundancy — and naturally, the most to lose if for some reason the current Ambassador Bridge were incapacitated.

Proponents of a new bridge welcome the behind
the scenes support from powerful carmakers.

“The automotive industry continues to support the DRIC process to clearly identify the best location and option for a new crossing that will add redundancy and unimpeded access from Michigan’s interstates to Ontario’s highways,” says the letter.

The DRIC process is currently scouting locations for the new crossing. The Michigan arm of the group has narrowed the site to near Zug Island and Fort Wayne.

The binational committee decided a couple years ago that a new bridge should be built in the region after rejecting a handful of other proposals vying for public support, including the Ambassador Bridge company’s plans to twin its current 78-year-old structure.

That didn’t stop Ambassador owner Matty Moroun from continuing with his plans, however. The bridge company has since been working on the twinning project on its own. Recently, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the plan, but there are several other regulatory hurdles from other agencies to clear.

When contacted by Todaystrucking.com an AAM spokesperson preferred not to add any further comment beyond what was written in the letter.

An industry source close to the issue, however, applauded the Big Three for taking a firm position — albeit behind the scenes.

“I am stunned — and impressed — by the letter,” he said. “I would never have thought they had it in them. These are mighty powerful folks to get behind (the) issue … They have the most to benefit from competition and redundancy at the border.”

The U.S. and Canadian auto industry sends thousands of cross-border truck shipments, worth well over $100 million dollars, through the border gateway every day.

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