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Politics and Money: A New Bridge Between U.S., Canada

February 19, 2015

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Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society

For years, officials in Canada and the United States have wanted to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, a strategically important border crossing for commercial traffic.

For years, the bridge has been fought by the owner of the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge (yes, a border crossing is privately owned). But now, the new bridge looks like it is clearing its final hurdles.

The Detroit News reports that Canada agreed to pay for a U.S. Customs plaza on the Detroit side, in a deal worth between $250 million and $300 million. The U.S., meanwhile, will pay for the operation of the plaza.

“This arrangement is good for Canada and for Canadians. It ensures that all the elements of the project will ultimately be delivered through a public-private partnership,” Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said at an announcement in Ottawa, Ontario. “It also allows Canada and Michigan to move the project forward immediately to its next steps which include further design work and property acquisition on the U.S. side of the border.”

According to the News,

The agreement appears to remove the largest lingering hurdle for the $2.1-billion New International Trade Crossing span over the Detroit River. The publicly financed bridge is scheduled to be built two miles south of the privately owned and operated Ambassador Bridge with a scheduled finish date of 2020.

As it’s designed, the bridge will provide direct access between Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Detroit and Ontario Highway 401 through a parkway in Windsor. Right now, bridge users on the U.S. side have to wind through a Detroit neighborhood, while the Windsor side is accessed through surface streets.

Formal talks between the two countries toward construction of the bridge began a decade ago, and a feasibility study was completed in 2008.

The agreement appears to be a final defeat for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who wanted to build a second span across the Detroit River to handle traffic while his company repairs the Ambassador so it can compete with the publicly financed bridge.

The Ambassador Bridge, opened in November, 1929, is an iconic landmark between Detroit and Windsor. It is the largest suspension bridge between two countries. You can see it in this video from the Sam Roberts Band.

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