Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Border Stories

Here are some short border stories that you might find of interest:


Say what you will about the project but the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership's short form name, DRTP, had a nice ring to it. D-R-T-P, it was so easy to pronounce and became very memorable. It just floooooooooooooooowed with all of those hard consonants!

As I told you previously, the Partnership's name has changed to the Detroit River Rail Tunnel. I must admit I don't care for that name very much. Moreover its nickname, DRRT, just does not have a good rhythm to it.

Go on, try it yourself: D-R-R-T. See what I mean. The double "R's" are difficult to say and almost feel like stuttering. Imagine how hard it will be for newscasters to use that name.

However, the BLOGMeister, or is it now the BLOGFather, is an equal opportunity name caller. Without any charge whatsoever, I'm here to offer the Detroit River Rail Tunnel a nickname pronunciation that I believe is appropriate considering that the project is now a tunnel under the river.

Ladies and gentlemen, the new name is to be pronounced "D-I-R-T!"

So please do not be offended when I write in future that the Detroit River Rail Tunnel is nothing more than D-I-R-T! I'm just trying to be helpful.


I have to ask the question why MDOT still wants to spend a half billion dollars to expand the Plaza in Port Huron. Honestly, it no longer makes any sense to me. Don't they have a better use for the money say, to fix up existing roads and repair bridges

I'm sure that you remember this slide that the Ambassador Bridge Company showed at the Senate hearings on Bill C-3. Clearly, the volumes are barely at the 1991 level even though a second bridge has been built and a new expressways put in right to the foot of the border crossing unlike in Windsor. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in all of these projects

Can you imagine if you were an investor in that border crossing who put in money based on traffic projections that have no basis in reality whatsoever. How much would you have lost by now?

In any event, there have always been problems on the Port Huron side with respect to the Plaza. So now MDOT wants to do a job in Port Huron similar to what they want to do in Delray by expanding the Plaza at a cost of about $500 million. In doing so, as in Delray, homes and businesses will have to be destroyed. One number as reported in the media in Port Huron was "130 homes and 35 businesses" as 50 acres of land were to be purchased for the new Plaza.

This sounded familiar from the Sarnia Observer as I've Blogged before:
  • "Perhaps no issue has been more contentious than the decision to expand the border-inspection plaza from 18 to 65 acres. Critics complain it would effectively divide the city while destroying two middle-class residential neighborhoods and the commercial district at the terminus of Interstate 94.

    Tomion said state and federal officials assured Michigan's congressional and legislative leaders that an inspection plaza at a major border crossing such as Port Huron would require at least 60 acres.

    He said local officials accepted that at face value until learning of plans to build a similar plaza at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y., on 39 acres."

But here is the hilarious part. Nothing is solved:

  • "A proposal to spend $433 million on Port Huron's border crossing may not put an end to long lineups at the Blue Water Bridge...

    Tomion said local officials also are concerned because state and federal officials refuse to promise that the $433 million investment will reduce the average length of delays on the Blue Water Bridge."

Here is a question that the people in both Port Huron and Sarnia should ask of the authorities. Why does all of this money have to be spent when it is a given, at least according to DRIC in Detroit, that the new DRIC bridge to be built here will take away a substantial portion of the Blue Water Bridge traffic. According to their latest report, the bridge in Sarnia could lose up to 18% of their traffic or more.

If the traffic numbers are significantly down from expectations in Sarnia/Port Huron and the new bridge in Windsor will take away another substantial portion of traffic, then why is there the need to build, build, build and spend, spend, spend?

I wonder if the consultants and the Government people who work on the Detroit project ever talk to the people who work on the Port Huron project to see if what they are doing makes any sense whatsoever.


Can you would imagine the border mess if this happened in a Greenlink tunnel or even in one of the DRIC shunnels. Isn't this the real reason why we are going to get the "cheap" solution in Windsor, never mind the money costs! Security forces know that a tunnel would be a weak link in the border crossing system.

As reported by CKLW news:

  • "HIGHWAY 3 CRASH 2008-03-10 16:27:30

    Travellors headed to the Ambassador Bridge had a backlog of traffic to deal with today. OPP say a tractor trailer headed east on Highway 3 was cut off, slid through the median and came to rest blocking on coming traffic. The west bound lanes of the highway in between Cousineau and Howard was closed for several hours. Police are looking for the suspect car, a grey vehicle with dark tinted windows, possibly an Impala."


Wilbur Smith, a consulting firm, has the contract with MDOT to write the environmental impact study for the Blue Water Bridge project.

Wilbur Smith is also writing the EIS for the Peace Bridge Plaza.

The Port Huron officials are complaining

  • "He said local officials repeatedly asked MDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection if similar projects were under way elsewhere on the border.

    "They said our plaza would be a new standard," he said. "They mentioned some crossings on the Mexican border, but they never told us about the Peace Bridge."

    The Peace Bridge, which crosses the Niagara River at Buffalo, is similar to the Blue Water Bridge in traffic counts, although the Peace Bridge handles more passenger vehicles and fewer commercial trucks. The customs plazas at the two bridges both are located in built-up neighborhoods.

    A proposed new plaza in Buffalo would require 39 acres, Tomion said, far less than the 65 acres being requested in Port Huron."

Hmmmm, how is the difference in land requirements explained away by the same consultant?

Wilbur Smith, as I also mentioned previously, is doing the investment-grade traffic survey that will show if there is enough traffic here presumably for investors to invest in a new DRIC bridge. DRIC said in their US report:

  • "According to DRIC, their new bridge would cause significant traffic shifts over the entire area from the Blue Water bridge right to the Windsor crossings. Dealing with truck traffic, the bridge in Sarnia could lose up to 18% of their traffic or more. The City of Windsor owned Detroit/Windsor Tunnel could lose up to 26% of its total traffic. The Ambassador Bridge could lose up to 75% of its truck traffic and 39% of its car traffic. Mind you, I thought part of the DRIC exercise was to remove traffic from Windsor too eg to rail, marine and to other crossings. So much for that when bridge economics come into play. We cannot have car and truck numbers crossing the bridge go down now can we!

    The new bridge good carry as much as 80% of the truck traffic carried by the two bridges and 60% of the car traffic.

    Now those are pretty impressive numbers don't you think. If I was a P3 operator, I'd be salivating waiting for the Governments to ask me to invest my money in a new DRIC bridge."

It may be so difficult for Wilbur Smith to say that DRIC was wrong don't you think. Think how awkward that would be for one consultant to say that another consultant was so far off the mark, especially when the number of consultants that do these kind of surveys are so limited. It is easily achieved though if the will is there because of economics: high Canadian dollar, Big Three market share problems, manufacturing industry job losses, opening of Detroit casinos, border crossing concerns, need for passports etc.

Wilbur Smith consultants are going to have to explain away this graph if DRIC is to move forward. If they support these numbers, then DRIC is dead isn't it for the foreseeable future and the Governments are saved a huge embarrassment! They can table DRIC until the truck volumes increase and not lose face: