Project Background

The Detroit-Windsor and Port Huron-Sarnia land border crossings of Southeast Michigan/Southwest Ontario are the busiest international crossings in the North American continent and represent nearly 50% of the traffic volume crossing the U.S./ Canada border. More than 75,000 vehicles use the Southeast Michigan/Southwest Ontario border crossings each day. Traffic at these Michigan/Canada ports of entry has grown 44% from 19.7 million vehicles in 1990 to 28.4 million vehicles in 2000. Truck traffic at these ports of entry has more than doubled from 2.5 million vehicles in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2000.

Over the last decade, Canada and the U.S. have developed the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. U.S. Commerce Department figures show that U.S. merchandise trade with Canada totaled $US330 billion in 1999, up 20% from 1995. Forty-two percent, $US140 billion in 1999, of the total merchandise trade volume crosses at the Detroit-Windsor and Port Huron-Sarnia border crossings. Trucks carry 75% of the total trade through the Southwestern Ontario Gateway.

Empowered by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trade between the U.S. and Canada will continue to grow, and so will traffic at the border crossings between Southeast Michigan and the Southwest Ontario. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation's Southwest Ontario Frontier International Gateway Study (1998), daily traffic at these crossings will grow to 104,000 vehicles by 2021. Truck traffic is expected to grow more quickly than passenger vehicles at these crossings. As a result, the proportion of trucks to passenger vehicles is expected to increase from the current 18% to 22% by 2021, resulting in 8.3 million truck crossings each year.

The Ontario study has further concluded the two-lane Detroit-Windsor tunnel which connects to urban streets in downtown Detroit and Windsor is close to capacity today, and that the four-lane Ambassador Bridge and its connecting link - Huron Church Road/Highway 3 in Windsor will reach capacity around 2010.

The planning agencies on both sides of the border have recognized the need to develop a coordinated, long term transportation strategy in this area and have launched a number of initiatives including:

(a) The Southeast Michigan/Southwest Ontario binational planning effort, whose purpose is to expedite cross-border vehicle and cargo movements through binational coordination of planning and project implementation;

(b) The Canadian National Truck Survey, which is being conducted in collaboration with SEMCOG, the Eastern Border Transportation Coalition (EBTC), MDOT and other agencies to study truck movements at U.S./Canadian border crossings;

(c) The Detroit-Windsor Corridor Traffic Study, which is a joint effort of MTO, MDOT, Transport Canada, SEMCOG, and the City of Windsor, currently underway, to collect travel survey data and carry out an analysis of vehicular flow patterns and characteristics of cross border traffic between Ontario and Michigan; and

(d) The Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, which is a $120 million commitment to renovate the U.S freeway connection to the bridge.

In December 2000, an Ontario-Michigan Border Transportation Partnership was formed among the United States Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada, Michigan State Department of Transportation and Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The purpose of the Partnership is to improve the movement of people, goods and services across the United States and Canadian border within the region of Southeast Michigan and Southwest Ontario. The overall objectives of the Partnership in support of this purpose are the following:

(a) To improve the movement of people, goods and services in a safe and efficient manner across the U.S./Canadian border at the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers to connect with existing national, provincial and regional transportation systems, such as I-75 and Highway 401;

(b) To enhance the regional economic vitality and Canadian/U.S. trade;

(c) To meet the long term needs of U.S. and Canadian border inspection agencies;

(d) To expedite the planning and environmental study process to ensure that future travel demands in this corridor can be accommodated in a timely manner;

(e) To ensure that all modes of surface transportation including road, rail and marine will be considered;

(f) To use a single integrated planning and environmental study process, resulting in a single product, which will meet the requirements of all members of the Partnership;

(g) To ensure that any solutions which are developed as a result of the above integrated planning and environmental study process comply with all relevant and applicable federal, provincial, state and/or municipal laws, regulations, bylaws, ordinances or other binding enactments validly created by bodies with legislative or rule-making authority;

(h) To ensure that the process is conducted in a financially responsible and prudent manner; and

(i) To ensure that intelligent transportation systems/state-of-the-art facilities be provided to enhance border crossing efficiency.

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