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LMich Jan 15, 2009 9:28 AM

Windsor-Detroit Gordie Howe International Bridge (Site Prep.)
Well, it looks like the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) has cleared its final environmental hurdle. There is still a big question of who's competing bridge proposal will get off the ground, first, the privately-funded proposal by the Detroit International Bridge Company or this publically-funded Detroit River International Crossing:


Second bridge to Canada wins fed approval

Tom Greenwood / The Detroit News

January 15, 2009

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it has approved an environmental impact review of plans to build a second bridge across the Detroit River to Canada.

The decision represents the final environmental clearance on the U.S. side for the Detroit River International Crossing study project and will allow Michigan to begin right-of-way acquisition and construction planning for the new span.

A similar review of an environmental study on the Canadian side conducted earlier this year by Ontario and Transport Canada is nearing completion.

"This is a big milestone in the process," said Bill Shreck, director of communications for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"It's an important component of the border system we need to make Michigan competitive in the 21st century."

Although no decision has yet been made, officials in Michigan are leaning toward locating the American end of the bridge in the Downriver area, specifically in Del Ray, near Zug Island.

In July 2008, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis endorsed building the bridge at that location.

Critics have slammed the idea of a second bridge, calling the $1 billion project too expensive and unnecessary given the current economic situation.

Others are dismayed that the construction of a second bridge at that site forces the demolition of up to 414 homes in Del Ray and would uproot as many as 56 businesses that employ nearly 1,000 people.

The Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge, has proposed building a second, privately owned bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

A call to the Detroit International Bridge Co. was not returned.

You can reach Tom Greenwood at (313) 222-2023.
And, from the Free Press, a map showing the two competing proposal:

LMich Jan 16, 2009 6:13 AM

BTW, the DRIC still hasn't selected whether this will be a suspension or cable-stayed bridge. If it's suspension, the towers will reach 459 feet in height. If it's a cable-stayed, this thing will reach 835 feet in height, which'll put it signifcantly over the height of the RenCen.

Either of these will be significantly taller than the existing Ambassador Bridge (386 feet)

plinko Jan 16, 2009 6:18 AM

^LMich, what do you think of the location? Doesn't it seem kind of dumb to locate it so far from the Fisher and from 401 on the other side? Especially if you have to tear occupied houses down?

Is a secondary span next to the Ambassador even still under consideration?

836'...that's like the new Stonecutter's Bridge size in HK (maybe a little smaller)

LMich Jan 16, 2009 6:41 AM

I think they considered nearly a dozen different locations and freeway configurations and narrowed it down to Delray specifically to keep it from taking out too many businesses. Any further up river and it'd have been even more destructive, any further down, and well, your point becomes even more true (i.e. it gets too far from the freeway). Canada really lobbied hard to push this as far downriver as they could to minimize disruption to traffic and property.

Yes, the private bridge proposal by the Detroit International Bridge Company is still very much moving forward, but the state has been using everything it cans to stop it. It also happens to be the least popular of the proposals, as it would facilitate shutting down the historic Ambassador, and everyone believes that he wants to eventually demolish it, anyway, in favor of the his new bridge. BTW, that one will measure ~ 551 feet in height.
Detroit International Bridge Company

Here's some info on the Ambassador Bridge "Enhancement" as the DIBC is calling it. And, here is the side for the Detroit River International Crossing or DRIC.

BTW, to see the plaza for this new public bridge on the American side, here's the pdf showing the configuration. As you can see, they tried to take out as few residences as possible. There is a trend, though, to try and move the population closer to the city and make Delray totally industrial.

theWatusi Jan 16, 2009 2:50 PM

Do contractors working on an international bridge have to go through customs every day in order to go to and leave work, (obviously not in the beginning, but at later stages when the bridge spans the river) or is there just security on either end to ensure that foreign nationals do not exit the construction site?

alexjon Jan 16, 2009 4:54 PM

Oh. Wow.

Build it yesterday

vid Jan 16, 2009 6:39 PM


Originally Posted by theWatusi (Post 4029713)
Do contractors working on an international bridge have to go through customs every day in order to go to and leave work, (obviously not in the beginning, but at later stages when the bridge spans the river) or is there just security on either end to ensure that foreign nationals do not exit the construction site?

For people who cross the border frequently, there is a card (I think it's called NEXUS?) that gets you through customs in a couple minutes. They'll probably have both sides blocked off and under security while it's being built to keep people from sneaking across via the bridge.

BTinSF Jan 16, 2009 7:23 PM

So, like when we build a bridge to Canada do we build and pay for it all or do we build it half-way and let them finish it? :rolleyes:

Or maybe do we charge a toll to only Canadians wanting to use "our" bridge (if any of them actually want to come across to our miserable, submerging semi-democracy)?

Oh, and did they get a say about how they view the impact on their environment? Or where to put the thing?

alexjon Jan 16, 2009 7:29 PM

Both sides build and maintain such bridges with the exception of the Ambassador bridge which is owned by a guy that I don't know if I should like or hate.

My grandmother hates him, but he seems kinda cool even though he's sorta shady.

vid Jan 16, 2009 7:53 PM

The bridge in Fort Frances/International Falls is owned by the mill. The big, smelly mill that is the first thing you see in the US when you cross the bridge to International Falls.

When you enter Fort Frances, the mill is on the right. :)

LMich Jan 17, 2009 3:29 AM


Originally Posted by BTinSF (Post 4030263)
So, like when we build a bridge to Canada do we build and pay for it all or do we build it half-way and let them finish it? :rolleyes:

Or maybe do we charge a toll to only Canadians wanting to use "our" bridge (if any of them actually want to come across to our miserable, submerging semi-democracy)?

Oh, and did they get a say about how they view the impact on their environment? Or where to put the thing?

Really, what was all of that about?

Alex, Matty is evil. He's been squatting on the MCS and if he get his new bridge, he'll most certainly tear down the Ambassador.

BTinSF Jan 17, 2009 4:06 AM


Originally Posted by LMich (Post 4031107)
Really, what was all of that about?

A lot of questions that come to mind when considering a bridge connecting 2 countries and literally crossing an international border.

Do you know the answers to any of them?

How's it all get done?

LMich Jan 17, 2009 4:20 AM

Oh, I honestly thought you were being facetious. It's not your normal typing style.


- Both sides put up funding money for the construction of the bridge. Same goes for the operation and maintenance, each side managed by its own special public coproration or both/either agree to let a private company manage both/either side (see Detroit-Windsor Tunnel).

- Every vehicle is charged a toll that goes toward the operation and maintenance of the bridge.

- This should answer your question about the environmental impact. In fact, that entire website should answer question about all of the politicis and policy that go behind international bridge building. It's incredibly complicated, and it's been working its way through planning since at least 2002.

So, from my understanding, everything's been tied up as far as environmental impact and location on the American side, and the Canadian side of things is soon to finish up. After that, they still have yet to pick the type of bridge (suspension or cable-stayed). When having to deal with state and national DOT's as well as the DofHS and local municipalities, you can see how this would get complicated.

We're still shooting for a start date for all of the traffic reconfiguration in 2010, and a completion for the entire project sometime in 2013. The private bridge, of course, would be built much faster if it's not further blocked.

Detroit River International Crossing Environmental Impact Statement Summary

Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Environmental Impact Assessment

LMich Jan 17, 2009 8:21 AM

(renderings from environmental impact statement pdf's)

DRIC Bridge

Ambassador Bridge Enhancement

jamesinclair Jan 18, 2009 11:20 PM

Seeing Canada to the south is always confusing for a second

LMich Jan 29, 2009 10:38 AM

An the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement (private bridge) takes another step forward, as well:


Bond sale OK'd for private Detroit-Windsor bridge


In the long-running contest to build one or possibly two new bridges between Detroit and Windsor, businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun just won a round -- but he faces several more challenges.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved Moroun's plan to borrow nearly $800 million to pay for construction of a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge.

Whether Moroun can parlay that into building a second span adjacent to his privately owned Ambassador Bridge remained in doubt. Moroun still needs further approvals on both sides of the border and faces opposition in Windsor.

Even so, Moroun could savor at least a partial victory in the DOT's approval that lets him seek to sell $787.4 million in Private Activity Bonds -- tax-exempt bonds that carry the same low interest rate as government bonds.

Coming the same month that the U.S. DOT gave final environmental approval to a rival plan to build a publicly owned bridge between Detroit and Windsor two miles downriver near Zug Island, the approvals mean that both projects have taken a step forward.

However, the DOT made clear in its letter of approval for Moroun's financing that it was not endorsing his plan over the other.

Before he can proceed, Moroun still needs a crucial permit from the U.S. Coast Guard and get the Michigan Strategic Fund to approve issuing the Private Activity Bonds, both of which Moroun hopes to get in the coming weeks or months.

Even greater roadblocks await him on the Canadian side of the border. Windsor opposition centers on the heavy truck traffic passing through central Windsor to the Ambassador Bridge. Windsor residents also object to the potential demolition of homes to make way for new bridge approaches there.

Mark Butler, a spokesman for Transport Canada, the agency equivalent to the U.S. DOT, said Wednesday that Moroun needs at least two approvals from Canadian federal authorities before he can build his second span.


LMich Feb 3, 2009 8:51 AM

A new article and comparison that does a pretty good job of explaining the two different projects moving forward:


Detroit River International Crossing

• Owner: To-be-established public-private multinational authority. The project is a joint effort of the Michigan Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.
• Cost: $1.5 billion to $3 billion (estimated).
• Financing: Municipal bonds repaid with toll costs.
• Key dates: Construction begins in 2010, opens in 2013.
• Bridge type: Cable-stayed or suspension.
• Site: Detroit’s Delray neighborhood north of Zug Island to a location in Ontario between the Brighton Beach power plant and a Canada Salt Inc. plant.

Ambassador Bridge second span

• Owner: Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co.
• Cost: $1 billion.
• Financing: Private activity bonds repaid with toll costs.
• Key dates: No start date. Thirty-six months for span construction.
• Bridge type: Six-lane cable-stayed, 6,200 feet long (2,200 over the river).
• Site: Adjacent to the current bridge.
Source: Crain’s research
And, the article:


Bridge duel continues between state and Moroun

By Bill Shea / Crain's Detroit Business

Feb. 1, 2009

The high-stakes standoff between Manuel Moroun and an international coalition of governments continues as both make incremental progress toward competing billion-dollar Detroit River crossings.

The situation got fresh impetus in recent weeks, thanks to a pair of U.S. Department of Transportation approvals for the simultaneous bridge projects — which include Michigan jointly funding infrastructure at one while seeking to build the other itself just a mile away.

On one side is Grosse Pointe land baron and trucking tycoon Moroun, who owns the 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge and is building a $1 billion, six-lane second span to replace the old four-lane structure.

Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co. was pre-approved on Jan. 6 for up to $787.4 million in private activity bonds, similar to tax-free municipal bonds. The first phase of the bridge project was approved for $212.6 million in private activity bonds on June 4, which covered the bridge company's portion of infrastructure work on a new highway interchange serving the crossing, said Mickey Blashfield, the bridge company's director of governmental relations.

The other project is the $1.5 billion plan to build a government-owned bridge, the Detroit River International Crossing, in Detroit's industrial Delray neighborhood to connect to Ontario. The U.S. government on Jan. 15 gave its environmental approval for the project, which is the product of the state of Michigan, Ontario and Canada's federal government.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is the primary U.S. agency seeking to build the new crossing starting next year while also completing the $230 million Ambassador Gateway project — the massive new interchange serving the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96.

Moroun and his aides say the DRIC bridge is unfair competition and unneeded because fewer cars and trucks are crossing the border, and they accuse its backers of sabotaging their privately funded effort to twin the Ambassador Bridge by delaying approvals.

“We have our would-be competition, or those in support of the DRIC bridge, thoroughly obstructing a bridge-replacement project no one should be against,” said Matthew Moroun, vice president of the bridge company and Manuel Moroun's son. MDOT denies DRIC would be much competition.

“We need both (bridges),” said Bill Schreck, the agency's communications manager. “The business community is telling us that they need better access and mobility at the border.”

No one disputes border traffic is down, the latest numbers showing 1.7 million fewer cars and trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge in 2008 than the year before. That's a 19 percent decline, and mirrors a trend since 2001. (See box above.)

The decline is temporary, and traffic will rise and require a second bridge, Schrek said.

“In the last 35 years, this is the fourth period of flat growth at the crossing,” he said. “It always restarts again. This is cyclical. Michigan is blessed with two of the busiest border crossings in North America.”

The traffic declines are attributed to post-Sept. 11, 2001, security concerns and the economic conditions that have savaged manufacturing, especially in the automotive industry that dominates Detroit and Windsor.

The Morouns agree that traffic will eventually increase, but say another bridge crossing isn't needed until statistics prove it is necessary.

The Detroit-Windsor border, which includes the bridge, a tunnel and ferries, is the busiest in North America and carries a quarter of all U.S. trade with Canada, estimated at about $130 billion.

Thus far, $30 million of an allocated $33 million has been spent on the DRIC study since 2002, and it faces significant bipartisan opposition in the Legislature, led by Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, who calls the effort a “boondoggle.”

Others who have questioned the need, right now, for a new crossing include U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit; U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township; and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.

Coming out in favor of DRIC have been Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and the Detroit Regional Chamber.

In the meantime, there's an air of inevitability about the second Ambassador Bridge span.

Its new ramp, roadway and customs booths on the Windsor side are done and await only the installation of the span itself. The Detroit side is close behind, with the new ramp open in the mornings for traffic onto the old span.

Canadian officials have been critical of a new Ambassador span because of traffic concerns in Windsor, something Blashfield said can be overcome with alternative routes available in the city.

The bridge company's public comments, and use of lobbyists to push their case in Lansing, have drawn the ire of DRIC's backers.

Democrat Steve Tobocman, whose state House district includes the Detroit neighborhood that will be paved over for the DRIC bridge, is outspoken in both his defense of the new crossing effort and in his criticism of Moroun.

“They're very good at parsing their words,” he said in a September interview. “Their arguments don't make sense to me. My question is, why would anyone object to completing the DRIC project?”

Tobocman, who favors government ownership of border infrastructure, also questioned the need to replace the Ambassador Bridge.

“There are plenty of bridges a lot older than 80 years old. We did a lot of wonderful engineering in the 1920s,” he said.

Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626,

JManc Feb 3, 2009 1:46 PM

to the politicians saying this isn't the time, wasn't obama proposing investing in infastructure to stimulate economy?

hammersklavier Feb 3, 2009 1:54 PM

Tearing down the Ambassador would be like tearing down the Ben Franklin Bridge here in Philly or the Williamsburg in NYC! We're not talking about an overly famous span, but one that's been a local landmark for generations.

I must say, the publicly funded proposal is most handsome.

LMich Feb 4, 2009 7:32 AM


Originally Posted by JMancuso (Post 4064541)
to the politicians saying this isn't the time, wasn't obama proposing investing in infastructure to stimulate economy?

Why would that matter to most Republicans (the ones leading the charge to stop the public proposal), who don't believe in public investment as a way to stimulate the economy in the first place?

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