US embassy cable - 05TORONTO2778

AMBASSADOR BRIDGE OWNERS UNVEIL BIG PLANS FOR DETROIT

Identifier: 05TORONTO2778
Wikileaks: View 05TORONTO2778 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2005-10-21 10:13:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: ELTN PBTS PREL CA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TORONTO 002778 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2015 
TAGS: ELTN, PBTS, PREL, CA 
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR BRIDGE OWNERS UNVEIL BIG PLANS FOR 
DETROIT 
 
REF: TORONTO 2248 
 
Classified By: Acting Consul General Michael Schimmel for reasons 1.4 ( 
b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: On October 20 the Detroit Free Press reported 
that the Ambassador Bridge owners have proposed giving the 
City of Detroit $30 million to &extend the lease8 on the 
Detroit Windsor Tunnel and buy some land at the foot of the 
bridge.  Ambassador Bridge owners say they plan to construct 
a 200-acre super inspection plaza for U.S. and Canadian 
border enforcement officials.  This article was published one 
day after the latest meeting of the Detroit River 
International Crossing (DRIC) Study, evaluating possible 
sites for a new border crossing.  Although the Ambassador 
Bridge owners are publicly stating that there is no need to 
construct a new crossing between Detroit and Windsor, they 
appear to be quietly moving behind the scenes toward 
construction of a second privately-held bridge span.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
Ambassador Bridge Owners Unveil &Big Plans8 for Detroit 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
2.  (U) The Detroit Free Press reported on October 20, 2005, 
that the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), 
operator of the Ambassador Bridge, proposes giving the City 
of Detroit $30 million to &extend the lease8 on the Detroit 
Windsor Tunnel and buy about 25 acres of land near the 
bridge.  Officials in the Detroit Mayor,s office touted the 
benefit to the city budget, and Ambassador Bridge owners 
emphasized the economic development benefits, estimating that 
up to 3,000 jobs would be created by the project.  Some 
Detroit City Councilors, however, expressed reservations 
about the proposal. 
 
3.  (U) The proposal involves creation of a 200 acre super 
inspection plaza for both U.S. and Canadian border 
enforcement officials in Detroit at the foot of the existing 
bridge (at an estimated cost of $150 to $200 million).  Under 
this proposal, which would require the concurrence of the 
Canadian government to station Canadian officials on U.S. 
soil, all existing border inspection facilities on both sides 
of the border at the bridge and tunnel would be closed, all 
inspections would be consolidated on the new site, and a 
secured two-lane road would be built from the new super 
inspection plaza to the entrance to the Detroit Windsor 
Tunnel.  Ambassador Bridge officials claimed the resulting 
efficiencies would dramatically reduce crossing times, 
enabling the existing crossings to handle more traffic and 
pushing the need for another bridge span or tunnel expansion 
20 to 25 years into the future. 
 
3.  (C) Neal Belitsky, Vice President of Operations for the 
Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation (DCTC), told PolOff the 
DCTC lease with the City of Detroit to operate the tunnel 
runs through 2020.  He noted that the DCTC joint operating 
agreement with Windsor runs through 2007.  Belitsky said he 
was not certain whether Detroit could legally sell its 
operating lease with the DCTC. 
 
Is A New Detroit River Crossing In The Cards? 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) The Detroit Free Press article was published one day 
after the latest meeting of the Detroit River International 
Crossing (DRIC) Study, evaluating possible sites for a new 
border crossing (NOTE: PolOff attended the meeting and will 
send a report on its conclusions via septel.  END NOTE). 
U.S. participants in the closed-door meeting noted that 
constructing a second span parallel to the existing 
Ambassador Bridge, would probably be acceptable from a U.S. 
standpoint, if the new crossing were publicly owned.  But 
David Wake, from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, said 
he expects the Canadian side will shortly rule out this 
possibility for social and environmental reasons because it 
would result in an increased volume of truck traffic running 
on already congested local roads through downtown Windsor. 
DRIC meeting participants agreed that, if the bridge span 
twinning proposal is rejected by Canada, the U.S. side will 
drop it from consideration. 
 
5.  (C) An Army Corps of Engineers representative at the DRIC 
meeting, said the Ambassador Bridge owners have in recent 
weeks come to the Corps offices in Detroit to discuss how to 
obtain the permit required to construct a second bridge span. 
 She, and the Coast Guard representative at the meeting, 
noted that the U.S. permitting process is basically 
technical, rather than policy-oriented, and must be completed 
within 90 days (for the Coast Guard) and 120 days (for the 
Corps of Engineers).  Wake said the bridge owners have been 
in similar discussions with Canadian government officials. 
He observed that the Canadian permitting process is similarly 
technical, noting that it may also be difficult for the 
Canadian government to avoid issuing a permit if/when they 
are asked. 
 
6.  (C) Comment: Although the Ambassador Bridge owners are 
publicly stating that there is no need to construct a new 
crossing between Detroit and Windsor, they appear to be 
quietly moving behind the scenes toward construction of a 
second privately-held bridge span.  Today,s article in the 
Detroit Free Press shows the funds the Ambassador Bridge 
owners are willing to expend to protect their revenue stream 
(estimated at $1 billion per year by the Detroit Free Press) 
and gain political support for their plans on the Detroit 
side of the river.  Opening a new span on the Ambassador 
Bridge site could bring some benefits to the Detroit side of 
the river where a highway construction project will soon 
provide the needed road infrastructure to smoothly funnel 
additional cross-border traffic onto I-75.  But adding a 
bridge span in downtown Windsor would present a difficult 
challenge for officials on the Canadian side of the river. 
End Comment. 
 
LECROY 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04