February 21, 2005

Ottawa, Ont begin EA phase of Canada-U.S. border crossing project

The federal and Ontario governments have begun the Canadian environmental assessment (EA) phase of the Detroit River international crossing project to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow at the Windsor-Detroit border. The EA phase will include the completion of environmental and technical studies to allow the governments to decide on the location of a new or expanded crossing in an environmentally responsible manner. Alternative solutions will be studied, with consideration being given to environmental and community effects, and a location for a new or expanded international crossing will be recommended.

The nature of the project and the complexity of border transportation issues in the Windsor-Detroit area makes this work necessary in order to meet the legislative and regulatory requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act and the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act. This work will be completed by the end of 2007, leading to the opening of additional crossing capacity by 2013.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is leading the Canadian work program in co-ordination with Transport Canada. The U.S. work program is being led by Michigan's Department of Transportation, in coordination with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Following a competitive bidding process, URS Canada and the Corradino Group have been selected to lead the Canadian and American work, respectively.

A Planning, Needs and Feasibility Study was completed in January 2004, and the terms of reference for the EA underwent public review last spring; they were approved by Ontario's Minister of Environment in September. The process will continue to provide for public participation, with the first of five rounds of public meetings planned for this April. In addition, local advisory councils on both sides of the border will provide the public, the private sector and community groups the opportunity to comment throughout the EA phase.

During this phase as well, careful consideration will be given to information in a report recently released by the city of Windsor. Known as the Schwartz Report, the document not only confirms the requirement for new crossing capacity, it outlines potential short- and medium-term proposals to address congestion problems in Windsor. Throughout the project, updates on study progress and consultation activities will be provided.

The development of additional border capacity is a national priority in both Canada and the U.S. to support the dynamic, high-volume economic activity between the two countries.

To this end, a Canada-U.S.-Ontario-Michigan Border Transportation Partnership has developed a cross-border 30-year transportation strategy that sets out the process for considering new border crossings. In addition to facilitating economic and transportation links, one of this Partnership's main objectives is to expedite the planning and environmental study process to ensure that future travel demands in this corridor can be accommodated in a timely manner.

Recognizing that a long-term solution will take time, federal, provincial/state and local governments are also implementing short- and medium- term measures to relieve border congestion and improve traffic flows to existing crossings. In the Windsor area, Transport Canada and the MTO committed $880,000 to support the deployment of advanced technologies to improve traffic management on Huron Church Road and on approaches to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.

Last March, the Governments of Canada and Ontario and the City of Windsor signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy. It will provide an investment of $300 million for the implementation of short- and medium-term projects to improve local traffic flows and address congestion and security issues at the Windsor Gateway.

Finally, the city of Windsor and its partners, with the financial support of Transport Canada, will conduct a community-based strategic rail study to examine the opportunities for rail rationalization and the development of an intermodal facility on city-owned lands around Windsor Airport.

More information is available on the Detroit River international crossing project Web site, www.partnershipborderstudy.com. Persons interested in being placed on the Canadian contact list for this project may direct their request to Roger Ward, senior project manager for the MTO's southwestern region, 519/873-4586, FAX 519/873-4600, E-mail Detroit.River@mto.gov.on.ca.

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