Ambassador Bridge Owner Seeks Second $300M Span

Sat August 14, 2004 - Midwest Edition

DETROIT (AP) The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have asked U.S. and Canadian authorities for permission to build a second, $300 million span to ease congestion at the two nations’ busiest border crossing.

The Detroit International Bridge Co., run by Grosse Pointe industrialist Manuel Moroun, filed permit applications for a second span, parallel to the bridge that links Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador bridge handle more traffic than any other spot on the long United States-Canada border. Long delays have been common, particularly since Sept. 11, 2001.

The Detroit-Windsor crossings account for about a quarter of the $400 billion in goods that travel each year between the United States and Canada, the world’s top two trade partners. Each year, 3.25 million trucks cross the bridge.

The permits are the first concrete step toward a second bridge, following years of rhetoric, hand-wringing and studies about the need for another crossing. They’re also sure to heat up the fierce scramble among three private companies vying for the job.

“Everybody’s been sitting around saying, ’We’ll do this, we’ll do that if we can get taxpayers’ money,’” bridge President Dan Stamper told The Detroit News for a Aug. 5 story. “We can do this ourselves. We have an obligation to do this to protect the region and industry.”

A bridge would take at least five years to complete.

Also vying to add another Detroit-Windsor link is the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership or “Jobs Tunnel,” which proposes to retrofit and widen an existing train tunnel under the river to accommodate trucks. A third group, Mich-Can, proposes building a bridge near Zug Island on Detroit’s south side.

Each would cost about $400 million to $600 million.

A committee of U.S. and Canadian transportation officials has warned that continued congestion would cause Michigan and Ontario to lose 48,000 jobs by 2020. The annual effect on both nations would be more than $10 billion a year, it said.

“The border is huge. It’s a very important piece of the economy, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the flow of goods and people moving as smoothly as possible,” said Carmine Palombo, transportation director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Stamper said he is petitioning to build another four-lane span with a potential to add two more lanes. The bridge would either be next to the current one, which was built in 1929, or added on to it.

The petitions were filed with the U.S. Coast Guard, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Ontario Ministry of Environment and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The $160 million Gateway Project, a public project under way to improve expressway access to the bridge, includes construction of a platform to accommodate a parallel span and a $14 million welcome center and market in Detroit’s Mexicantown neighborhood.