US embassy cable - 05TORONTO2805

Update on Plans for New Detroit River Crossing

Identifier: 05TORONTO2805
Wikileaks: View 05TORONTO2805 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2005-10-25 14:44:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: ETRD 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.

251444Z Oct 05
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TORONTO 002805 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR WHA/CAN - ERVITI 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ETRD, PBTS, PREL, CA 
SUBJECT: Update on Plans for New Detroit River Crossing 
 
Ref: (A) Toronto 2255 (B) Toronto 2778 (notal) 
 
Sensitive but Unclassified - Protect accordingly. 
 
1.  (U) Action request contained in para 12. 
 
2. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a closed-door session on October 
19, 2005 in Detroit, the Corradino Group described to 
U.S. federal and state government officials the status 
of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study 
of potential new border crossings and plaza sites on the 
U.S. side of the Detroit River.  The DRIC study results 
will not be released to the public until November 28. 
Environmental and construction issues dictate 
construction of a new bridge, rather than a tunnel, 
thereby ruling out the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership 
Proposal (also known as the "Jobs Tunnel").  A 
combination of social and environmental factors led the 
study to focus on centrally-located crossings between 
downtown Detroit and Windsor.  Any of the proposed 
alternatives would be directly connected to Interstate 
75 on the U.S. side.  By November 4 the Federal Highway 
Administration is seeking concurrence from all concerned 
federal and state agencies with the proposed centrally 
located sites (see para 12).  On November 28 the 
recommended sites will be released to the general public 
in both Canada and the U.S.  END SUMMARY 
 
3. (SBU) In a day-long closed-door session on October 
19, 2005 in Detroit, Joe Corradino described to U.S. 
federal and state government officials (including 
Poloff) the status of the DRIC study of potential new 
border crossings and plaza sites on the U.S. side of the 
Detroit River (NOTE: The Corradino Group, a consultancy 
firm specializing in engineering, planning, and 
construction projects, is conducting the research and 
analysis and producing the U.S. version of the DRIC 
study under contract with the Michigan Department of 
Transportation.  END NOTE).  Corradino outlined how and 
why several potential crossings had been eliminated from 
the study in the past few months. 
 
Centrally-located Bridge Beats Out Tunnel 
----------------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Corradino said constructing a new tunnel has 
been ruled out because of the geology of the Detroit 
River bed (solid rock - nearly impossible to bore 
through -- with a very thin overlay of sediment -- not 
enough to keep a tunnel placed on top of the rock from 
floating to the surface) combined with the need for at 
least six additional lanes of traffic to meet future 
projected traffic volume.  According to Corradino, the 
Detroit River Tunnel Partnership proposal (also known as 
the "Jobs Tunnel") was eliminated because it would not 
significantly improve regional mobility and would not 
allow for a sufficient additional volume of traffic to 
provide redundancy for the Ambassador Bridge (NOTE: the 
Jobs Tunnel would only provide two additional lanes of 
cross-border traffic.  END NOTE).  Potential down-river 
crossings were eliminated after consultations with the 
public, he said.  Potential crossings upriver from 
downtown Detroit and Windsor, including those near Belle 
Isle, were eliminated for environmental reasons. 
 
5.  (SBU) Corradino observed that the U.S. portion of 
the study is now focused on mid-river bridge crossings 
in the vicinity of the existing Ambassador Bridge and 
truck ferry.  The relatively narrow channel at this site 
will enable a bridge to be constructed entirely out of 
the navigable channel.  This means the biggest 
challenges for the project will be social rather than 
environmental, he said. 
 
6. (SBU) Corradino said that, if the Canadian side 
rejects a potential site, the U.S. would also drop it. 
David Wake, Windsor Project Coordinator for the Ontario 
Ministry of Transportation, agreed that, if the U.S. 
side finds a potential crossing to be unacceptable, 
Canada would likewise no longer consider it. 
 
7.  (SBU) Wake noted that Canadian experts, who are 
proceeding on a separate but parallel track, also agree 
that the central area under consideration is the most 
promising.  Wake said the Canadians rank order the 
central area crossings differently, noting that the 
Ambassador Bridge site ranks poorly from a Canadian 
perspective because of the impact a new/additional plaza 
and more traffic on Huron Church Road would have on 
downtown Windsor (ref (B)). 
 
8.  (SBU) U.S. and Canadian experts are focused on 
narrowing the range of potential crossing and plaza 
sites for a new publicly-funded crossing of the Detroit 
River.  They acknowledge that their rejection of a 
potential site would not preclude a private sector 
entrepreneur from requesting and obtaining the needed 
permits to construct and operate a new crossing without 
public sector financing (ref (B)).  The twinning of the 
Ambassador Bridge and Detroit River Tunnel Partnership 
proposals could be constructed without public sector 
endorsement by the DRIC study. 
 
Geologic and Diplomatic Planning Constraints 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) Unmapped brine wells, some of them 1,200 feet 
deep, which predate the 1900s, could complicate the 
placement of bridge footings on both sides of the river, 
Corradino observed.  In the coming months the U.S. will 
conduct a $2 million geological-technical analysis to 
determine where bridge footings could be placed on the 
U.S. side. 
 
10. (SBU) James Kirschensteiner, Assistant Division 
Administrator (Michigan) of the Federal Highway 
Administration, said the DRIC study has not considered 
co-locating U.S. and Canadian border facilities at a new 
crossing site since negotiations to conclude a Shared 
Border Accord are not yet completed.  Corradino said his 
group is identifying potential plaza sites of between 
100 to 200 acres, to accommodate future inspection 
needs.  Plazas on the U.S. side of the river would have 
a dedicated connection to I-75.  Wake noted the 
Canadians are looking for 80 to 100 acre sites for 
plazas, per request of the Canadian Border Services 
Agency. 
 
Next Steps 
---------- 
 
11. (SBU) Wake said Canadian experts will publicly 
unveil their conclusions about practical alternatives on 
November 28, when the Canadian side will brief concerned 
local government councils.  Public meetings to discuss 
the conclusions will be November 29 through December 1 
in Windsor, LaSalle and Amherstburg.  Mohammed 
Alghurabi, DRIC Project Manager, Michigan Department of 
Transportation, said the U.S. side will also publicly 
announce the selection of practical alternatives on 
November 28.  U.S. public meetings to discuss the 
conclusions will be held from December 5 to 8 in the 
Detroit metro area. 
 
12.  (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Department is requested to 
provide informal concurrence with the centrally-located 
practical alternatives for a future Detroit River 
Crossing by November 4 to James Kirschensteiner 
(James.Kirschensteiner@fhwa.dot.gov) (NOTE: All involved 
federal and state government agencies -- Department of 
Homeland Security (Customs and Border Protection and 
Coast Guard), General Services Administration, Army 
Corps of Engineers, Interior Department (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service), the Environmental Protection Agency, 
and the Michigan Department of Transportation -- have 
been asked to provide comments to the U.S. Department of 
Transportation by November 4.  END NOTE).  A copy of the 
draft report has been express-mailed to WHA/CAN. 
 
SCHIMMEL 

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