SPECIAL REPORT: Bridge Co. requests permit for twin span

DETROIT — The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have officially filed a permit application to begin construction of its “enhancement project,” which includes a new, six-lane twin span across the Detroit River.

The Detroit International Bridge Company submitted the request to the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality to start work on the new crossing, which would run adjacent to the existing span and connect directly to the current plazas in Windsor, Ont. and Detroit without modification. It is also expected the new span would be fed by existing traffic routes on each side of the border.

A new, 6-lane twin span would use the
existing border plazas and feeder routes

A Department of Environmental Quality notice, obtained by TodaysTrucking.com, states the new proposed structure would be a 102.5 ft-wide, 6,200 ft-long cable stayed toll bridge just west of the 77 year-old Ambassador. The tower on the U.S. side will be 105 feet north of the river, while on the Canadian side, the tower will be 171 feet south.

“The existing Ambassador Bridge will be closed for evaluation and repair, if found economically viable for future use,” the notice, dated July 13, 2006, states.

In the enhancement project application, an official from American Consulting Engineers LLC writes on behalf of the bridge company: “No negative environmental impacts are anticipated. There will be no dredging, structures or piers within the Detroit River … little or no damage should occur to the Detroit River ecosystem since all construction will take place on land.”

The notice confirms the bridge company is following through with its much-rumored plans. In April, the Windsor Star reported that American Consulting Engineers had completed a 34-page environmental impact report for the company.

Critics insist, however, the bridge company is trying to undermine plans by Canadian and U.S. government officials to build an entirely separate bridge about 3 km southwest of the Ambassador.

The binational committee decided last year to build the new crossing rather than convert an existing rail tunnel into a truck corridor or twin the Ambassador — a plan the bridge company submitted to the committee as well.

Critics charge the Ambassador is undermining a new
crossing to be built southwest of the existing bridge

It also appears the Ambassador folks have accelerated their plans, perhaps in attempt to preempt proposed Canadian and U.S. legislation, which attempts to take some control of international border crossings — especially the privately-owned Ambassador.

In Canada, proposed amendments would provide the governor-in-council the authority to approve or veto the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels as well as permit the feds to rule on any sales or transfers affecting the ownership.

South of the border, Senator Buzz Thomas wants to establish public port authorities to oversee and manage border crossings, including private spans, TodaysTrucking.com first reported in May (follow links below).

Currently, the owners of the Ambassador operate with a great deal of autonomy. Authorities have the right to limit, even restrict, law enforcement and safety engineers on the bridge.

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