Eddie's New Border Worry
Our Mayor's "show and tell" at the Joint Councils meeting has made Windsor front and centre of the problem. Where previously, ie when Eddie and this Council were first elected, Windsor was proactive, three years later we are again reactive dancing to the tune of the Senior Levels again.
The Mayor confirmed in front of the Detroit Council that he and his Council have been sitting on $300 million for almost three years to fix the road to the border and yet we cannot still agree on what should be done. Where the Americans have spent hundreds of millions and are about to finish the Ambassador gateway project, we have plans! It's hardly the way to make friends is it.
Moreover, with the border running much more smoothly, it is becoming more difficult to keep on blaming US Customs for failing to staff booths.
No Mr. Mayor, the problem is all yours now. It is hardly a prediction but if you do not act soon and in a positive manner rather than pointing fingers, then the Senior Levels will. The funny part too is that they seem to be more sensitive to our needs---no use of E C Row, no cutting through the Ojibway Nature Reserve, utilizing the WALTS study corridor--than our Mayor and Council
Detroit doesn't need another bridge
Government would repeat Port Huron fiasco with new span to Canada
Gary Wolfram and Craig Ruff /
A flawed government-sponsored study has called for the construction of a new bridge across the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. Michigan should not commit precious transportation dollars to an ill-advised project and should instead focus on fixing its roads and other existing bridges.
This issue not only affects taxpayers, but businesses such as the automakers, which cross the border constantly, and Metro Detroit and Windsor residents who enjoy entertainment, shopping and other activities across the border.
First, there is no need to spend $3 billion of Canadian and American taxpayer money for a new bridge, plaza and roadway connections. The bottleneck in the crossing is not in span width, but in inspection facilities.
Second, there is certainly no reason for the government to build a bridge because there are plenty of incentives for the private sector to expand the crossing if the need develops.
Four-year traffic decline
While about the same or slightly more commercial vehicles have crossed the Detroit River between 2000 and 2004, total vehicles are anywhere from 10 to 25 percent lower by month than four years ago.
Bottlenecks are a function of the number of inspection booths, number of customs personnel, and motorists' preparedness.
The Detroit River International Crossing, a partnership of the federal and Michigan governments as well as the Canadian and Ontario provincial governments, has a poor track record on projections. In the last three years, its models projecting demand have been overhauled twice.
What confidence does this give us in the project's use of a 30-year projection of demand to defend its conclusion that a new bridge must be built?
Government planning fails
The planning for the Blue Water Bridge, which links Port Huron and Sarnia, illustrates the problem with government planning. The three-lane Blue Water Bridge experienced backups in 1992 when its annual traffic was 6 million vehicles. Planners judged that an insufficient number of lanes caused backups and determined that a second span would alleviate delays.
In 1998, the second three-lane span opened, and traffic stood at 5.2 million vehicles annually -- nearly 15 percent lower than in 1992. The bridge still does not carry enough traffic to justify the second span. The problem was always a shortage of customs booths and a poor plaza design.
Given the past track record of Canadian-U.S. government studies, we seriously doubt that there is an impending need for additional bridge capacity.
In addition, the Ambassador Bridge is operating at much less than full capacity, overall traffic has been flat for the past six years, and closures of and cutbacks at Michigan and Ontario auto plants are threatening to dampen cross-border shipping.
Between Toronto and Chicago or Toledo, Ohio, there are two major impediments to the efficient flow of commercial vehicles. One is the U.S. plaza at the Blue Water Bridge. The second is the stretch of six miles (through commercial districts and 17 traffic lights) between Highway 401 in Windsor and the foot of the Ambassador Bridge. Government planners should confront these obstacles -- not call for new lanes.
The Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation have ensured inspection capacity is met through a partnership that will improve access to the bridge and relieve traffic congestion on the Detroit side.
In addition, the Detroit International Bridge Co. is spending $50 million to expand the U.S. plaza. This will serve the needs of border inspectors for at least 50 years.
If future demand warrants it, a new bridge should be privately owned. The privately owned and operated Ambassador Bridge has a 76-year history of being safe and well-maintained.
If a new bridge is needed, the private sector will have every incentive to build one because delays on the bridge mean lost revenue.
Hard-strapped Michigan faces critical transportation needs. In Southeast Michigan, alone, about $40 billion is projected to be needed for road improvements. That should be our priority, not building an unnecessary new bridge over the Detroit River.
Gary Wolfram is president of the Hillsdale Policy Group, a Hillsdale-based consulting group specializing in tax and public policy, and Craig Ruff is a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing. They are consulting for the Detroit International Bridge Co.