The city of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, experiences frequent traffic
woes, particularly with the bottlenecking of traffic and heavy trucks heading
for the Ambassador Bridge to cross into Detroit.
The busiest border crossing in North America produces tie-ups whenever
bridge problems or security alerts arise, and this bothers city officials, who
want to protect historical areas. One possible solution suggested so far is to
add a new feeder route to separate cars and trucks on the way to the border.
“Windsor is going to be home to the next border crossing, but there are
quality-of-life issues people deserve to have like in any other city,” Norma
Coleman, chief of staff for Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, told Land Line.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, a Windsor native, told city
officials that a federally designed plan would not happen and the border issues
would be up to the local government to solve.
The city hired “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, a New York traffic and
engineering expert, to get to the root of the problem and come up with
solutions. Schwartz set up a Canadian office in the border city.
“With his extensive knowledge of bridges and tunnels and networks, he
was asked by Windsor to work with community groups and others to come up with a
traffic plan, presented in January (2005) to the city council,” Coleman said.
Schwartz has saved historical bridges in New York City and is credited
with coining the term “gridlock” during the 1980 New York transit strike. He
recently helped the city endure the December 2005 transit strike.
“I cut my teeth in some of the toughest transportation in the world,” he told Land Line.
He said changing times, more truck traffic and Windsor’s layout have
caused the problems. All border traffic takes Huron Church Road to get to the
Ambassador Bridge. Huron Church is inadequate for its purpose, Schwartz said.
“As a traffic engineer, one can see that was a mistake,” he said. “You
don’t subject city streets to heavy trucks.”
Schwartz has come up with some solid plans for Windsor, including a new
feeder route that separates cars and trucks on the way to the border and takes
congestion away from Huron Church Road. His proposal also calls for a new
bridge to cross the Detroit River, in addition to the Ambassador Bridge and the
The Windsor City Council unanimously approved Schwartz’s proposal in
November 2005, even though it is not site specific on where exactly to build
The Ambassador Bridge is eight decades old and is privately owned.
“More and more over the next 10 years, the bridges start needing more
maintenance,” Coleman said. “If you have to shut down a bridge, you have no
redundancy. Trucks don’t fit through the tunnel.”
The City Council will have to decide in the next month whether or not
to continue to use Schwartz to see the proposal come to fruition. Work in the
border city is ongoing and time consuming, Coleman said.
“You can’t do it as a cheap way to accomplish a transportation
network,” she said. “You have to spend the dollars necessary to keep quality of
life. That will be the discussion. Do we need to bring Mr. Schwartz back in to
– Dave Tanner, staff writer