Government officials in Ontario and Detroit have unveiled plans for a major new infrastructure project to link the cities of Windsor and Detroit. The proposals include the construction of a six-lane bridge crossing the Detroit River with a plaza either end and state of the art border inspection facilities. The announcement has been met with widespread support although there are reports of concern from some Michigan officials.
Entitled the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), the scheme will run parallel to the existing Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel several miles along the river. After concerns were raised by some Michigan politicians, the Centre for Automotive Research (CAR Group) was brought in to run a thorough analysis of proposals to inform the final decision.
CAR Group found that: “The NITC will provide greater accessibility between Michigan and Canada. This greater accessibility could lead to new private investment as well as job creation and retention. Initially, the construction of the bridge itself will serve as an economic stimulus by generating employment opportunities within the state of Michigan.”
Costs laid out in the September 2011 NITC Proposal total $3.8bn for the entire project, including the I-75 Interchange, US Customs Plaza, construction of the new bridge, Canadian Customs Plaza, and Windsor Essex Parkway which would connect the plaza to Highway 401. The State of Michigan will not be required to contribute to any of these costs as they will be covered by Canada, the US General Services Administration and a P3 Partner. Canada has also committed an additional equity investment of up to $550m to cover costs incurred by the State of Michigan for construction on US soil.
Backers of the scheme advise that a project of this scale will have immense economic benefits for Ontario, Michigan and the wider region as the Detroit-Windsor connection is one of the busiest border crossings in the US. Michigan exports total approximately $44bn of products per year and 25% of Michigan manufacturing jobs depend on exports. Annual toll revenues from the NITC are expected to hit $70m in the first year of operation although there is no indication just yet as to how soon this will be.
Proposals for the NITC have found support in many areas of the manufacturing industry including the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI). Thomas J. Gibson, AISI President and CEO, explains: “This is a tremendously positive development and a breakthrough to develop significant new infrastructure to support essential cross-border trade. This historic agreement will streamline and improve automotive and other cross-border supply chains in each country, which require a seamless flow of goods in order to meet just-in-time delivery schedules.
“We are particularly pleased that the project will require that all steel and other construction materials must be of either US or Canadian origin, a provision that will ensure the bridge is constructed from quality materials while supporting high-value US or Canadian jobs.”