Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced last Friday that the Province will commit $1.6 billion to the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC)—a project that the Sierra Club argues continues to advance “despite the steady and persistent decline in cross-border traffic in the Windsor-Detroit corridor dating back to 1999.”
McGuinty said, “Improving the flow of traffic at the Windsor border is the number one economic infrastructure priority for the Government of Ontario.”
Sierra Club feels that the DRIC project is” unnecessary and environmentally destructive.” It claims that on the Canadian side, access to the proposed new bridge would damage the environmentally sensitive Ojibway Prairie Complex of parks and preserves, harming at least 10 species at risk.
“The McGuinty Government has taken desperately needed funding away from Toronto transit to support the construction of an unneeded bridge to service declining cross-border traffic,” said Dan McDermott, Sierra Club Ontario chapter director. Recently, the Province cut $4 billion in funding that was meant for Toronto’s Transit City plan—though the Province now says the projects will get done, just in 10 years as opposed to eight.
The feds are also getting involved. Canada’s Transport Minister John Baird announced on April 28 that his office is fast-tracking the construction of a new bridge at the Windsor-Detroit border crossing, which he calls the busiest commercial crossing in North America. Baird said, “The Government of Canada is increasing its financial participation in the project, as part of its commitment under Canada’s Economic Action Plan for short-term and long-term job creation and economic growth in the Windsor region and across Canada.”
The Federal Government has offered to help with trade/crossing infrastructure, loaning Michigan the $550 million needed to kick-start construction of a new bridge. The current Ambassador Bridge carries a quarter of the merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S—that’s $130 billion a year in trade. The Canadian Government predicts that truck traffic will triple, and vehicle traffic more than double within 30 years.
But the company that runs the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor has now said it will sue Canada if the project moves forward. Detroit International Bridge Co. has sued Canada before, arguing that, under NAFTA, Canada can’t undermine it by helping Michigan build a new, competing crossing. The new suit claims that construction of a Windsor approach road steers traffic away from its bridge. The first lawsuit seeks $3.5 billion in damages. The new one asks for $550 million.