Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder reached agreement to build a new, second bridge linking Windsor, ON, and Detroit, MI, after years of political wrangling that has delayed progress on what trucking interests say is Canada's most needed infrastructure investment.
The political agreement to build the bridge and the connecting highways between the federal government, the Government of Ontario (which has responsibility for constructing the highway linkages that are already underway) and the City of Windsor was attained some time ago. Up until now, the green light from Michigan remained the missing piece of the puzzle, according to David Bradley, Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) president.
Canada will pay Michigan’s $550-million share of the bridge — an advance that would later be repaid from toll revenue. Snyder was previously stymied in obtaining approval for the project in the Michigan legislature after intense lobbying from the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.
Bradley acknowledged that opponents who have been battling bridge planners on both sides of the border, such as the owners of the private Ambassador Bridge, are unlikely to give up their fight and could challenge the accord.
“Regardless,” said Bradley, “the hard part of this long, drawn-out episode has been resolved. The need for a new bridge — in terms of both the economic viability and long-term security of both nations — is pretty self-evident. The myriad of problems that truck drivers have experienced in recent years with congestion, delays, and added costs associated with having a single, aging piece of infrastructure at one of the world’s most important trade gateways has led to their solid support of new public-private crossing.
“When it’s constructed, the new bridge will improve trade flows across the single busiest gateway for trade in North America,” added Bradley. “It will provide freeway to freeway access to the border on both sides, provide redundancy in the event of an emergency shutdown at any of the Windsor-Detroit crossings, and enhance the efficiency and predictability of the North American supply chain which in turn will attract future direct investment and stimulate economic growth in the region.”
And, said Bradley, it will reduce the environmental impacts of long queues at the border.
“It’s been a long road to get to this day, with even more stops and starts than on Huron Church Road,” Brady said, pointing to the fact that trucks have to negotiate 16 stop lights on the Windsor road leading to the current bridge crossing. “So we are thrilled the new crossing will become a reality.”
According to the Public Border Operators Assn. (PBOA), the current 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge saw 2.6 million truck crossings last year. About 25% of the goods (valued at about $1.5 billion per day) traded between Canada and the U.S. crosses over the Windsor-Detroit border. Truck traffic is projected to increase 128% over the next 30 years, surpassing current capacity by 2033.
It’s still unknown exactly when shovels will be ready to hit the ground, but environmental approval to build the bridge across the Detroit River in the Brighton Beach-Delray industrial corridor has already been granted under the lengthy bi-national study process.
The new bridge will also amplify the $164-billion in interprovincial trade and spur economic activity among all Canadian provinces, particularly by enhancing many of the initiatives announced in the Border Action Plan between Canada and U.S. last November, said Bradley. Notably, a new bridge would heighten the benefits truckers would realize in the decision to harmonize in-transit truck shipments between Canada and the U.S., effectively restoring Canadian carriers’ ability to transport loads domestically between provinces by temporarily travelling through the U.S.