Tunnel visions of trouble

WINDSOR, Ont. — You know that tunnel between Windsor and Detroit? Well you might think it’s just just a big old pipe full of trucks, cars and buses going to the casino. But it’s really a symbol of how complicated and fragile this, the busiest border link in North America, is.

For one thing, when you enter the tunnel, you’re on City of Windsor property. Makes sense, right?

But when you exit it Stateside, you’re not on City of Detroit property, but rather in a tunnel owned by a private infrastructure investor called Alinda. The City of Detroit leases the tunnel to Alinda and that agreement is in effect until 2020.

This week, according to the Windsor Star, the City of Windsor, headed by Mayor Eddie Francis, will be meeting to discuss a new corporation for the Canadian side of the tunnel.

“What we will be dealing with is a recommendation from legal counsel to put the tunnel into a corporation to protect the taxpayer from any financial exposure that might occur from an act of terrorism or accident,” said Francis.

Windsor lawyer Cliff Sutts, a tunnel specialist, has long recommended that the city form a tunnel corporation, but for one reason or another nothing materialized. However, he said Tuesday the time has come.

Last June, the two cities were close to completing a US$75-million deal to give Windsor full control. The deal fell through at the last minute when Transport Canada withdrew funding support.

Windsor tried to gain control of the Detroit side about a year ago after Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun almost got control of the Detroit side. Canadian authorities feared if Moroun gained any control at the tunnel, it would give him a near-monopoly of the two local crossings.

The city has since carried on alone in negotiations. This latest development could be a key step in completing the multimillion-dollar deal with Detroit to give Windsor control of both sides of the tunnel.

With 4,000 Canadian commuters travelling to Detroit daily, keeping the tunnel in public control is of greater importance to Windsor, Sutts said.

“It’s important tolls are reasonable. Private enterprise would jam it up as high as possible,” Sutts said.

— with files from the Windsor Star

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