Canadian Consulting Engineer

Consulting engineers help carve out New Windsor-Detroit border crossing

January 5, 2009
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

On December 31, the environmental assessment report for a major new border crossing into the U.S. from Windsor, Ont...

On December 31, the environmental assessment report for a major new border crossing into the U.S. from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan was filed.

The report recommends a new “end to end” crossing that links Highway 401 in Ontario to the U.S. highway network.

The plan will extend Highway 401 from the outskirts of Windsor, north through the city to the crossing point. The new Windsor-Essex Parkway will be a six-lane, below-grade freeway with a series of tunnels and 300 acres of green space. The inspection plaza will have toll booths, customs offices, and duty free shops and a 17-hectare security buffer zone. The new bridge over the Detroit River will be approximately five kilometres west of the existing Ambassador Bridge. It could be either a suspension bridge or a cable-stayed bridge, “to be determined after discussions with prospective builders.”

In Canada, several consulting engineering companies have been involved in the four-year studies to prepare the environmental assessment plans. URS Canada was retained as lead consultants by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in coordination with Transport Canada. The subconsultants included: Golder (geotechnical), SENS (air), RWDI (air), Stantec (preliminary design), LGL (ecological), PMA (landscape); Archaeological Services (archaeology), Hemson (land acquisition), IBI (traffic demand).

A joint initiative of both Canada and the U.S., the new crossing is intended to ease long truck waits at the Windsor-Detroit border, which is North America’s busiest commercial land border crossing. The border already has four crossings, including the Ambassador Bridge which carries most of the truck traffic, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which is limited in size and carries mostly commuter traffic, a train tunnel, and a ferry that takes only trucks carrying hazardous materials.

Creating a new crossing to ease the situation for commercial truck traffic and give better security through redundancy has been a priority of both countries. The federal U.S. and Canadian governments, and the governments of Ontario and Michigan are all supporting and funding the new proposals, with plans being organized by a special bi-national Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study team (DRIC).

A spokesperson with Transport Canada in Windsor said that they hope the Canadian Environmental Assessment will be approved this year. (The federal and Ontario environmental approval process was combined for the project.) If the EA meets approval, construction on the new parkway in Ontario could begin by the end of this year, while the inspection plaza and bridge would take another four or five years.  The highway project alone would create an estimated 12,000 jobs in a region hard hit by the slowdown in the automobile industry.

Numerous technical studies and public consultations have been held on the proposals, including seven rounds of public information open houses and more than 300 meetings with community groups, stakeholders and others.

The U.S. environmental approval process is also under way and approval is expected in 2009.

At one point, the Detroit International Bridge Company which owns the existing Ambassador Bridge, proposed building a second bridge span near that existing bridge. However, this privately funded alternative was opposed by communities on the Michigan side of the border.

The recommended location for the border inspection plaza in Windsor is in the Brighton Beach industrial area to the west of the city, in an area bounded by Broadway Street on the south, Chappus Street on the north, the Detroit river on the west and a railway on the east.  The DRIC’s Environmental Assessment Report for the new proposal is available for public review and comments from January 9 to February 27, 2009, and can be downloaded at



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