'Jobs Tunnel' draws support at Manufacturing Summit

| Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Government, industry and labor officials recently discussed a proposal to convert a tunnel between Detroit and Canada into a truck-only border crossing, according to a statement from the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership.

The all-day discussion, which took place Dec. 8 at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth, involved more than three dozen business and labor leaders. It was part of the Michigan Manufacturing Summit in Plymouth, MI, called by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The event was organized to explore ways of keeping the state competitive in a global economy.

The governor embraces a new border crossing as one vital step.

The project calls for converting a rail tunnel under the Detroit River into a two-lane truck route. A new train tunnel would be built alongside it.

Officials in the state refer to the proposal as “The Jobs Tunnel” because the $430 million project, financed largely with private investments, is designed to protect and create jobs. It would be ready two years after construction begins, doubling the number of truck-only lanes now available between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, the world's busiest commercial crossing, with more than $92 billion in annual trade.

Earlier this fall, a 57-page research report by five economists added to the sense of immediacy surrounding border transportation discussions.

The freight and transportation specialists, headed by Michael H. Belzer of Wayne State University, found that the Ambassador Bridge system – including access roads, toll plazas and checkpoints – is generally “at 92 percent of capacity ... (and) significantly exceeds capacity during many hours of the average workday.”

Belzer’s team projected The Jobs Tunnel would help southeast Michigan and southwestern Ontario save 9,000 to 12,000 automotive industry jobs that could be jeopardized by the present delays and added costs of moving parts and vehicles across the border.

Without a remedy for the chronic gridlock, the economists predicted, manufacturers would relocate production to other regions.

“Moving ahead with construction of The Jobs Tunnel can offset projected economic decline and keep good manufacturing jobs in this region longer,” Belzer said recently. “The sooner the construction begins, the sooner the region will be poised to compete and grow.”

The project has pulled in support from other areas as well.

James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, spoke to the event in support of the project.

“The Jobs Tunnel is so important to our state’s economy,” Hoffa said. “The tunnel will double truck capacity, employing drivers while speeding the flow of goods. With nearly $100 billion in trade crossing that border every year, this is an improvement that is long overdue.”

More details of the project can be found on www.thejobstunnel.com.

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