Trotting out a 2,600 word diatribe of crocodile tears on October 13, the Windsor Star’s Anne Jarvis can be visualized as standing on her chair and shaking her fist at the Ambassador Bridge Company. She bases her whole missive on, “The privately-owned toll bridge sits at the heart of the continent’s busiest international border crossing.”
After 8 years we can still see there is a fact checking issue at the Star.
Traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge has dropped precipitously over the past few years. Since the 2008 recession, traversing the bridge has dropped 7% and the numbers are trending down. Cross-border traffic between Windsor and Detroit is down 44% since 2000 and truck traffic is off a million vehicles a year, or about 30%.
In contrast, the San Ysidro, CA, border point is the busiest in the world, with over 50,000 northbound vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians crossing daily, as of February 2017, utilizing 106 inspection booths. In terms of truck traffic, over 200,000 more commercial crossings and $24 Billion more in trade crossed at Laredo, TX, in 2013, than over the Ambassador Bridge.
The continent’s busiest international border crossing? Not even close.
The decrease of the Canada-US trade movement is also apparent at the other border crossings between Ontario and New York and Michigan. Public Border Operators Association has disclosed that total traffic has decreased 36% and truck traffic 20% since 2000.
Even with the swing of US foreign trade in favour of Mexico, there are those who are still advocating to spend, currently, $4 Billion on a government bridge two miles downstream from the Ambassador. How much more it will cost by the time it is built is anybody’s guess. No one in their right mind would want to spend $4 Billion on a bridge in these economic times.
The new Ambassador Bridge will consist of six lanes, as will the proposed, but now stalled, Gordie Howe Bridge. That’s an increase of 200 per cent in capacity for car and truck traffic which has diminished greatly, especially since the border thickening after 9/11. Add on the loss in value of the Canadian dollar, generally good for Canadian exports to the US, and far fewer people are traveling to the States these days.
Do we even need the Gordie Howe Bridge? Based on the downward trending Canada-US trade numbers, there is even less reason to spend public money on it now.
It’s already projected to be four years behind schedule, if it is ever completed. The costs will only go up from there. And, the Bridge Authority has become a dumping ground for Liberal hacks. Authority chair Dwight Duncan has no idea how much the bridge will cost but is willing to spend taxpayer dollars anyway. Remember that under Duncan’s direction Ontario was transformed into a have-not province with a worse credit rating than Quebec.
We should re-name the yet-to-be-started government bridge to the Pork Crossing.
Considering the Canadian government issued the go-ahead for the Canadian Transit Company to proceed with construction of the new Ambassador Bridge, there should be no further debate about its going forward. However, in the Jarvis article, there are still those who want to spend local tax dollars on fighting the CTC.
Much like Duncan, Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens is opting to have Windsor property owners pay for further fights. Dilkens seems to want to wield a stick in future negotiations instead of working with the Bridge Company.
He’s eyeing all the community improvements that Detroit mayor Mike Duggan received and wonders why Windsor isn’t getting the same concessions. After blocking the Bridge Company’s attempt to move the new bridge forward over the past decade, it is any wonder that Windsor, especially Sandwich residents, have received the short end of the stick?
Matthew Moroun told the Detroit Free Press, “It’s a lot easier to accomplish your goals if you’re working with others in a positive way.”
Any lack of benefit for Sandwich lies directly at the feet of Windsor politicians past and present. Now Dilkens wants to leverage any value in the Huron Church Road closure to wring money out of the CTC and he has started to negotiate in the media.
“Dollars will have to flow for the Ambassador Bridge to accomplish its objectives,” Dilkens told Jarvis.
The Canadian government put in place 28 conditions which have to be met by the CTC if the new Ambassador Bridge is to be opened. If Transport Minister Marc Garneau thought that he could wrangle any more out of the CTC, wouldn’t he have done so? After all, the conditions are there to protect Windsor.
The writing on the wall seems pretty clear. Why is Windsor’s City Council prepared to spend countless more millions in fighting the inevitable? And why are the Trudeau Liberals willing to spend $4 Billion or more on the Gordie Howe Bridge?
The answer: Because it is not their money they are spending.
An earlier version of this article erroneously stated the increase in lane capacity as 300%.