WARREN, MI — Trucks carrying hazardous goods will not be using the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, the Michigan Department of Transportation has decided.
“This confirms what the regulations are at the Ambassador Bridge. There have been questions for a number of years of whether or not the government could regulate it because the Ambassador Bridge is private property,” said Gregg Ward, vice-president at Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry.
Ward’s ferry service focuses on moving trucks carrying dangerous goods or other machines such as automotive presses that cannot cross the Windsor-Detroit border via the bridge or tunnel.
The Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC), who owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge, asked for changes to current restrictions placed on the types of materials allowed to cross over the bridge. Currently, flammable, corrosive, explosive or radioactive materials are prohibited from crossing the bridge. The only alternative is Ward’s ferry service.
But the DIBC’s request was denied after eight months of deliberation during which the reviewed public comments and after several meetings with law enforcement and emergency responders.
DIBC is unhappy with the decision and issued a statement saying they will seek judicial review.
“[Michigan Governor Rick] Snyder is well aware that all of the roads connecting to the Ambassador Bridge already allow for the carriage of these types of freight and more. But those are only the facts and not the politics,” DIBC stated.
The politics, according to DIBC, is that Gov. Snyder is in support of the New International Trade Crossing, a second planned and publicly-owned bridge connecting Michigan to Ontario.
DIBC commented: “By forcing trucks to drive an additional 60 miles through the most populated area in Michigan, Snyder can punish the Ambassador Bridge for opposing his NITC bridge. Worse, Snyder has already declared his bridge will be allowed to handle hazardous trucks.”
In making its ruling, the state DOT said federal law states that changes in the routing of hazardous materials should be granted if the change enhances public safety. After getting feedback from law enforcement, first responders, federal agencies and Canadian officials, the department determined that “no net improvement to public safety would result from granting the modifications requested by the DIBC.”
Ward commented: “In reality, if there’s a breakdown at the Ambassador Bridge, the only crossing for trucks is the truck ferry and we’re a very small operation. For the sake of the economy of Ontario and Michigan and Canada and the United States, we need redundancy at the border.”
That’s why it’s important to build a second bridge, Ward explained. The truck ferry, he added, carries eight trucks per crossing, which takes 15 minutes. The Ambassador Bridge, on the other hand, has 8,000 trucks crossing per day, he estimates.
“That’s what they [the DOT] were looking at when they considered the haz-mat materials [dangerous goods in Canada] – if there was an accident on the bridge, the consequences are huge.”
Since the ferry couldn’t handle the truck traffic from the Ambassador Bridge, trucks would have to reroute a long way to find alternative crossings.
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