Michigan voters give green light to new bridge to Ontario

By Mary Ebeling

There is an established need to address traffic congestion and improve operations at the Detroit, Michigan/Windsor, Ontario, Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River – the busiest international border crossing in North America. Efforts to replace the bridge, or add a sister span, have met with resistance from the private corporation that owns the 83-year-old bridge. However, with the results of the Ambassador Bridge referendum on November 6, the state of Michigan is now free to issue permits and construct a new bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor, creating jobs, increasing cross-border trade, and reducing travel times. Studies suggest the bridge will create 12,000 jobs over the four-year construction period. The economic impact of improving freight movement across the border has even generated enthusiasm in neighboring states such as Ohio.

First proposed by Michigan’s Governor in 2011 and opposed by the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Moroun family, in the same year, the new, publically-owned bridge will both compete with and complement the Ambassador, offering an additional option for the congested Detroit-Windsor border crossing.

The Moroun family, presumably dismayed at the idea of losing their monopoly on bridge tolls at this important crossing, launched the ballot referendum, which would have required any new international bridge crossing to go to a public vote prior to approval. The failure of this ballot initiative paves the way for Michigan to begin the approval and permitting process for the new bridge, known as the Detroit River International Crossing. This is the second victory for the state over the Mouron family, after a judge in March allowed to Michigan to take over a long-delayed connection between the Interstate highways and the Ambassador Bridge that was to have been built by the Mourons.

Ontario also looks forward to the improved crossing between the province and Detroit. Approximately one-third of Ontario-U.S. trade crosses at this location.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.