OTTAWA—Officials from Canada and the United States have signed an agreement to build the cost of a U.S. border inspection plaza into the larger New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project, clearing the way for construction of the much-needed border crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.
In a statement released by Transport Canada, Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt said the inspection plaza on the U.S. side of the new bridge will be procured as part of the overall project, with the cost “repaid from future toll revenues and not by Canadian taxpayers.”
The project price tag is expected to be in the neighbourhood of $4 billion, and will cover costs including work on highway interchanges and related infrastructure.
“This arrangement is good for Canada and for Canadians,” Raitt said in the statement. “It ensures that all the elements of the project will ultimately be delivered through a public-private partnership. It also allows Canada and Michigan to move the project forward immediately.”
The publicly-owned NITC project, which has been hung up for months on the border inspection plaza cost, has faced a number of hurdles in recent years, including a legal challenge by the private company that owns the Ambassador Bridge.
That injunction request made by the Detroit International Bridge Co. was ultimately rejected by a U.S. court in June 2014.
In November 2012, Michigan residents voted on a referendum-style issue—Proposal 6—that threatened to put the fate of the NITC and all future infrastructure projects in Michigan in the hands of the public.
Under terms of the agreement reached this week, a public-private partnership (P3) will design, finance, construct, operate and maintain the NITC, which will be overseen by a joint authority established in July 2014.
Reporting to Ottawa, the not-for-profit Crown corporation will be tasked with preparing sites on both sides of the border and managing the procurement process, as well as setting and collecting tolls, Raitt said at the time.
Nearly 30 per cent of trade between Canada and the U.S. crosses the Detroit River each year, making it one of the most important borders for both countries.
“The new NITC bridge is of vital importance to the economic prosperity of communities and businesses on both sides of the border,” Raitt continued.
“It will facilitate the movement of people, goods and services by ensuring that there is sufficient border crossing capacity to handle projected growth in cross border trade and traffic in the Windsor-Detroit trade corridor. As well, it will provide a much-needed crossing alternative at one of the busiest commercial border crossings in North America and support national security and public safety priorities in Canada and the U.S.”
Raitt said the project will now proceed to the next steps, which include “further design work and property acquisition” in Michigan.
The Associated Press reported in February 2014 that the Canadian governments was quietly buying land in Detroit for the project.