Canada approves new Ambassador Bridge, with 'conditions'

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Friday, September 08, 2017

The Canadian government announced it has approved an enhancement project for the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The bridge is part of the busiest land border crossing in North America.

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau made the announcement via news release on Sept. 6, explaining an application to build a new span was approved “subject to conditions.”

“The government of Canada recognizes the importance of ensuring the continued flow of trade and travelers between Windsor and Detroit, one of the most important Canada-United States border crossings,” Garneau said in a statement. “The construction of the replacement Ambassador Bridge together with the Gordie Howe International Bridge project will ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from the efficient movement of people and goods at this crossing while providing infrastructure improvements for the local community.”

The project will see the construction of a replacement six-lane bridge as well as an expansion of the Ambassador Bridge’s associated Canada Border Services Agency facility, according to the release.

Under Canada’s International Bridges and Tunnels Act, those conditions include dismantling the existing bridge when the replacement bridge is open, improving local infrastructure, creating new public green spaces, protecting the environment, and considering indigenous people’s interests.

A series of protracted battles have played out in courts on both sides of the border between the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns and operates the 88-year-old bridge, and various state, federal and provincial governments in both the U.S. and Canada, as the state of Michigan and the Canadian governments plan to build a new, multibillion dollar span, the Gordie Howe International Bridge, 2 miles downriver. The bridge company is owned by Detroit businessman Manuel “Matty” Moroun. The bridge company has long sought to twin the bridge, and finally obtained approval for such construction from the U.S. Coast Guard in March 2016.

But a statement issued by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder suggests Moroun will have to go back and obtain additional permits from the U.S. government, since the Canadian plan authorizes replacement, rather than twinning.

“Today’s announcement reflects that reality and also addresses the physical limitations of the 87-year-old Ambassador Bridge by calling for a replacement span rather than the construction of a twin span. However, construction on a replacement span would not begin unless and until further governmental approvals in the U.S. are obtained and several conditions established by Canada are met,” Snyder said in a news release.

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