DRIC Bridge Nearing Reality
All systems are a go for the new international bridge at the Windsor-Detroit crossing after the American government issued a permit for construction of the new $1.5 billion span. It’s expected construction will begin in 2015, with completion about seven years later. The Americans are providing their permission to build it, but not offering up any money to cover the costs.
The Detroit River International Crossing project is deemed vital in order to ease massive congestion at the busiest commercial crossing between the two countries. As of now, the wait times are costing both economies billions of dollars each year in lost productivity as truck traffic sits idle waiting to pass through customs due excessively huge lines. Every day, almost 400,000 people and almost two billion dollars of goods and services cross the border between Canada and the United States. The Windsor-Detroit corridor is by far the most critical trade route and the busiest commercial border crossing, handling almost 30 per cent of Canada-U.S. surface trade by rail and trucks.
“The Windsor-Detroit corridor is Canada’s most important trade artery and the busiest commercial land border crossing in North America,” says Mark Butler, Senior Communications Advisor, Windsor Gateway Project with Transport Canada.
The DRIC bridge will be built south of the current Ambassador Bridge, which is the busiest commercial crossing on the Canada-U.S. border with more than 1.5 million truck passages last year. The crossing will connect Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mich. by linking the yet to be completed Windsor-Essex Parkway with Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Michigan. There will be a direct link with Highway 401, travelling southwest of the city of Windsor.
“Whenever you talk about this bridge project you have to realize that the problem hasn’t just been the bridge, it’s been that the 401 – the main Highway that goes up to Toronto and beyond – ends at the outskirts of Windsor,” says Dr. Bill Anderson, research chairman of cross-border transportation at the University of Windsor.
Canadian and Ontario authorities have agreed to cover Michigan’s share of the $1.5 billion projected costs. Michigan will repay Canada with future toll revenue. Snyder had sought approval of the bridge project in the Michigan state legislature, but was rejected.
Matty Moroun, who owns the privately-held Ambassador Bridge, has mounted staunch opposition to the construction of a new crossing, but his legal challenges have come up short.
Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt and Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Denis Lebel welcomed the signing of the Presidential Permit for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) / New International Trade Crossing (NITC), announced on Apr. 15. The permit is required in the United States to allow the construction of the new publicly-owned bridge between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mich.
“Canada and the United States are each other’s most important trading partners,” says Raitt. “The Presidential Permit represents an important step towards a new bridge which will be needed for growing trade and traffic at the busiest Canada-U.S. commercial border crossing with over 8,000 trucks crossing each day.
This project will create thousands of jobs and opportunities on both sides of the border both during the construction period and in the years to come.”
The crossing is one of Canada’s top infrastructure priorities. In addition to the new six-lane bridge, the project includes state-of-the-art inspection plazas and an interchange with Interstate-75 in Michigan.
“One-quarter of all U.S.-Canada trade, which is the world’s largest two-way trading relationship, crosses at Windsor-Detroit,” said Jeff Watson, Member of Parliament for Essex. “The Detroit River International Crossing will make a vital contribution to our community, the auto industry, Canada’s economy and the well-being of both countries.”
With the signing of the Presidential Permit, the project can now advance to the next steps including acquisition of properties in the U.S., relocation of utilities, land clearing and more detailed design in preparation of the procurement process to select a successful private sector partner to design, finance, build, operate and maintain the new crossing.
In June 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the signing of the Crossing Agreement. Under that agreement, Canada will be responsible for constructing, financing and operating the new crossing.
“This is about jobs for today and tomorrow,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement.
The new crossing is also a key component of the Continental Gateway and trade corridor. It further advances Canada’s commitment to a secure and efficient border which improves the flow of people and goods.
As the new bridge will be built by the private sector under a Public-Private Partnership (P3), the new legislation will bring certainty to the P3 market for the construction of the DRIC project.
Bottom line is that the DRIC Bridge is much needed for redundancy reasons related to security and for the ability and to accommodate greater volumes of business truck traffic carrying freight. Without keeping up with the needs of the 21st century, major sectors of our economy will be irreparably harmed.
“We better have a good bridge, which means not one that’s 80 years old (Ambassador Bridge) and we need redundancy in the system so we’re not completely dependent on one,” says Dr. Anderson.
The number of construction jobs and reciprocal work is sorely needed in a region where the unemployment rate of about 10 per cent is the highest in Canada.
The long-term effects of developing such a necessary transportation mechanism is sure to enhance economic productivity on both sides of the border. Barring any unforeseen bureaucratic tie-ups, the bridge should be operational by 2022.