Windsor eyes complete control of tunnel

WINDSOR, Ont. — The City of Windsor has entered into a tentative US$75-million agreement with Detroit to take full control of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel, reports the Windsor Star.

The move looks like an attempt to secure the tunnel away from private interests. In the last two years, reports have swirled that Ambassador Bridge owner and billionaire Matty Moroun was attempting to take control of the tunnel — the region’s only other border crossing.

The deal would give control of the U.S. side of the tunnel, which is owned by Detroit, to Windsor for 75 years. The tunnel is co-owned by Detroit and Windsor and operated by the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corp., which is owned by Macquarie Bank in Australia.

Windsor officials admit that the Ambassador
company may try to thwart the tunnel deal.

“That connection for 75 years has been vital to our residents, our region, tourism and our security,” Mayor Eddie Francis told the Star. “All of that was threatened by a proposal to turn it over to a private enterprise that would have destroyed that vital link.”

In an exclusive interview with the Star last year, Moroun said he had no interest in owning the tunnel outright or setting tolls.

But as media, including, have previously reported, in 2005 Moroun offered the City of Detroit $30 million to take over the lease of the tunnel for 100 years. The proposal, according to the Detroit News at the time, would have also given the bridge company rights to set tolls.

The offer, originally supported by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was later rejected because of opposition from a majority of Detroit councilors and Canadian officials.

Several more months of negotiations remain in order to finalize this deal with Windsor, however.

A lawyer for the City of Windsor said he wouldn’t be surprised if
Moroun or other private interests do their best to scuttle the deal before it closes.

Ambassador Bridge President Dan Stamper wouldn’t confirm or deny to the Star whether the company would interfere with negotiations, but did say the city has had a habit of getting involved in Bridge Co. dealings in the past.

Much of the $75 million is expected to be paid up front by Windsor. The city, however, has requested financial support from Transport Canada.

— with files from the Windsor Star

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