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Windsor-Detroit Border Battles
07/08/2004

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor and Detroit, have filed papers to either add 4-6 lanes to their bridge or to build a second bridge beside it. This was covered in the Globe and Mail's Report on Business yesterday, with more information in the Detroit News.

This story is of interest to me since my family home is about two blocks away from the bridge. Twinning the bridge is going to cut that in half and change the neighbourhood. So, no doubt, I have a bit of a bias here. The new traffic would be bad enough, but tearing down half the neighbourhood is too much for me. (See here, and here, for some past postings on this subject.)

In any case, the bridge people try to make the case that this bridge expansion needs to be built because of congestion that is threatening the most important link in Canada-US trade. While the bridge's importance is a fact, their proposal is matching the wrong solution to the wrong problems:

  • Border delays are caused more by US Customs inadequacies than by a lack of lanes on the bridge
  • When it comes to the risk of relying on a single crossing, expanding the bridge is only a partial solution. It may help with delays caused by accidents on the bridge itself, but still leaves the system vulnerable to blockage at a single point, and does nothing about the terrorism question
  • The plan also does nothing about concerns about the heavy and growing truck traffic through old residential areas. (16-18,000 trucks per day now, estimated to rise to 40,000 trucks per day within 15 years. That's 28 trucks per minute!)

What the proposal to build now is all about is protecting the Detroit International Bridge Company's cash-cow monopoly, by squeezing out any room for new competition to come along.

A main contender to fight the bridge is the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership (DRTP), which has a plan to build a dedicated truck road leading from the 401 to an existing rail tunnel which would be renovated and expanded. It has several advantages -- an integrated customs facility, competition, trucks off Windsor streets, and a second crossing in case of security issues.

But, as Windsor Star columnist Gord Henderson writes, the bridge company has been estimated to rack in $75-million per year, just by maintaining an 75-year-old structure. They want to protect those profits and they have the cash to build something faster and with their own capital. They can squeeze everybody else out, and that's exactly what they're trying to do.

Anyway, here's the link for Windsor Truck Watch the NIMBY group trying to protect my old neighbourhood, and here's the NIMBY group fighting against the DRTP.


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