Canada, US Agree on Financing to Launch Detroit-Windsor NITC Bridge Project

AASHTO Journal, 20 February 2015

A new financing accord between the United State and Canada has cleared a major hurdle to begin building a major cross-border highway bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ont.

New International Trade Crossing Artist’s rendition of possible NITC configuration.

The deal centers on using a public-private partnership to pay for construction of customs plazas on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing, while the U.S. will pay to staff, operate and maintain its customs plaza in Detroit.

The Detroit News said the terms include the Canadian government covering the cost of the bridge construction and be repaid for U.S.-side costs through toll receipts, including $250 million for the Detroit customs facility. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security would need congressional approval for its costs to run the Detroit customs plaza, which it estimated at about $100 million the first year of operation and $50 million a year afterward.

The publicly financed NITC would be expected to open in 2020, two miles south of the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge that is privately owned and operated. Its ownership family has staunchly opposed construction of a competing international bridge there, in favor of expanding its own crossing.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, R-Mich., told the Detroit News that while Congress would need to appropriate customs plaza funds, it would not need to act until closer to the new bridge’s completion. She serves on the Senate Finance and Budget committees that could help arrange congressional approval.

The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest international trade crossing in North America, and has long been seen as a bottleneck as trucking trade and passenger tourism traffic continues to grow. Trucks haul a range of goods between the two nations, especially autos and auto parts moving between a series of factories in Canada and the U.S. Midwest.

The Detroit-Windsor route is also close to where major railroads have recently built major intermodal hubs in Ohio, where cross-country trains drop off or pick up regional truck-hauled containers filled with cargo.

In an official statement, Stabenow said news of the financing pact “is a critical step forward in building the Detroit-Windsor bridge, which means new jobs, new commerce and increased security for our state.” She also praised Canadian officials “for their willingness to creatively work with us to remove the final barrier to completing this critical project.”

Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder issued a joint statement with Michigan’s other senator, Democrat Gary Peters, also saluting the accord.

Said Snyder: “I’m appreciative of the work of our partners in Congress and in the Canadian government to ensure that the New International Trade Crossing – important to both of our countries – continues to move forward. I will continue to encourage the U.S. government to provide the necessary resources to fund U.S. customs facilities at the NITC project and the Blue Water bridge in Port Huron.”

Peters said that “as a long-time advocate for the New International Trade Crossing, I am pleased that the United States and Canada have reached an agreement on construction of a new customs plaza, removing a significant obstacle that has delayed this critical infrastructure project from moving forward.”

Peters, who committee assignments include Homeland Security and Commerce, Science and Transportation, also said, “The NITC will create thousands of Michigan jobs, enhance trade with Canada, our closest trading partner, and help transform Michigan into a transportation and logistics hub for trade, manufacturing and innovation.”

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