The Detroit Windsor Tunnel remains a conduit of economic opportunity - a vital viable downtown-downtown link
By Neal Belitsky: Over the past few years, the discussion about the border has been about building bridges, when in fact, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel has been an indispensable link between the United States and Canada for over 80 years. It is one of the 15 busiest border crossings with more than four million vehicles passing through the tunnel each year, including over 35,000 commercial trucks and buses.
The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) recently released a study detailing the impact a new bridge will have on the region. While we know a new bridge will create thousands of jobs, the economic impact it will have on the region should not get lost on existing border crossings; jobs, an improved economy and population growth will benefit the Tunnel.
The Detroit Windsor Tunnel will continue to have a unique place in the market focusing on its prime markets- passenger vehicles, downtown to downtown and regional traffic. We will remain a viable competitor in the Detroit Windsor market.
The Detroit Windsor Tunnel plays an extremely important role in the economic health of our region. For example, thousands of people who work in Southeastern Michigan, including nurses and doctors, IT professionals, engineers and others rely on the Detroit Windsor Tunnel each day to get to work, to shop in area stores, eat in local restaurants and enjoy all the sports and entertainment venues our region has to offer.
In addition, families who live on both sides of the border rely on the Tunnel every day, to see each other. . And it is the conduit for the only international public transit system in the region, with Transit Windsor traveling through the tunnel on a regular basis with several stops in downtown Detroit, with more service during special events.
While millions of dollars will be invested to create new infrastructure, governments on both sides of the border should continue to reinvest in the region's existing border infrastructure. For example $30 million in infrastructure improvements to the Tunnel's Windsor plaza are scheduled to start in 2013.
The Tunnel is privately operated with the operator investing over $50 million in infrastructure, service, safety and security improvements over the past number of years. A recent example, is the $9 million (USD) invested in energy reduction, enhancements to U.S. Customs, expansion of the Detroit Plaza and the migration to electronic tolling.
These enhancements were made in an effort to prepare for our region's growth. According to a new report released earlier this month by the BMO Financial Group, the Windsor economy is shifting in a positive direction. The City of Windsor, University of Windsor and Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation are all working to diversify the Windsor economy. While Windsor's population has declined over the past few years, the city of Windsor is now home to exceptional entrepreneurial ventures, high tech industries and a solid agricultural base. In fact, new jobs, new investments and new opportunities to grow are happening on both sides of the border and the Detroit Windsor Tunnel is ready for the increase in cross-border travel.
Competition in any industry is healthy and we welcome the opportunity to bring in a new border crossing whenever that happens. And so what's good for the region is good for the border, and for any border crossing that means more jobs.
As we prepare to celebrate the Detroit River Days, the Freedom Festival and commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, it is important to remind ourselves how unique Detroit really is. We may be two independent and democratic nations, but we are truly one region.
While The Detroit Windsor Tunnel may not be a visible part of Detroit or Windsor's skyline, it has been a vital link in our region's economy for almost a century and will remain a vital link for centuries to come.
Neal Belitsky is chief executive of American Roads LLC operator of the tunnel
Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC
100 E. Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
(T) 313-567-4422/519-258-7424 (Ext 204)