Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the conclusion of an agreement between Canada and the State of Michigan toward building a new publicly owned bridge crossing between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, to be known as the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). The agreement establishes the framework for each party’s roles and responsibilities for the construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the new international crossing.

Canadian Sailings published a detailed article in its issue of November 7, 2011, featuring the background and activities surrounding construction of the Windsor-Essex Parkway, and different proposals to increase traffic-carrying capacity across the Detroit River. At the time, the NITC was favoured, but beset with political, financial and legal problems that threatened it.

“This new bridge will reduce congestion at this critical Canada-U.S. border crossing, support the creation of new export related jobs and investment opportunities, increase the competitiveness of the North American manufacturing sector, and provide thousands of construction jobs in Ontario and Michigan,” said Prime Minister Harper.

The project includes the bridge, Canadian and U.S. inspection plazas, and an interchange with Interstate-75 with construction expected to take four to five years. The project will be funded by the Government of Canada, with the U.S. plaza being the responsibility of the U.S. government. The private sector is also expected to contribute to the project through a public-private partnership. Ontario and Canada are jointly funding the Windsor Essex Parkway, which will connect Highway 401 to the new bridge. The total construction costs are valued at between $3.5 and $4 billion.  Project costs incurred by the Government of Canada will be recouped from toll revenues over a number of years.

With the signing of the agreement, Canada and Michigan can now proceed with the next steps of the project, which include further design work and property acquisition on the U.S. side before construction can begin. Under the agreement, Canada will be responsible for constructing, financing and operating the new crossing with likely private sector involvement.

Canada and the U.S. enjoy an economic partnership unique in the contemporary world. The two countries share the greatest bilateral trading relationship on the planet. In 2010, bilateral trade was close to $645 billion, with more than $1.7 billion worth of goods and services crossing the Canada-U.S. border every single day.

By committing Canada to a ­dis­proportionately large share of the project costs, the Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that properly functioning and “ready for possible disruption” trans­­portation infrastructure between the U.S. and Canada is of paramount importance in the maintenance of existing trade relationships between the two countries.