Enhancing the Canada-United States Gateways and Corridors: East, West and within.

Author:Carmody, Chios

Session Chair-Chios Carmody

Canadian Speaker-Sean O'Dell

Canadian Speaker-David Oxner

United States Speaker-Hugh Conroy


MR. CARMODY: Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to get underway with this ultimate panel in the conference, "Enhancing the Canada-United States Gateways and Corridors: East to West and Within."

I am Chios Carmody for those of you I have not already met. I am actually filling in for John Terry who was newly appointed to our advisory board. John is a Toronto lawyer with the law firm of Torys LLP. John was unable to make this particular session and therefore sends his regrets, but he would like to extend on his behalf and on behalf of his firm a very warm welcome to all of you, and a very great thanks to Henry for having invited him to this particular session and the chairing duties in it.

This session is, as entitled, about gateways and corridors. And it might sound a little odd, and perhaps, fanciful, to think that in a North American environment, there are such things that exist. After all, as the Admiral said last session, thinking about trying to build a fence across Lake Erie is impossible, so how is it that we are going to build gateways and corridors along--at least as long a distance? But in fact such infrastructure is being built in a way to channel traffic between our countries in many different ways.

And we have three extremely experienced and knowledgeable individuals who are joining us today to speak on this topic. To my immediate right is Hugh Conroy. Hugh is a project manager with the Whatcom Council of Governments, also known colloquially and affectionately in Washington State as WCOG. Hugh is with WCOG. WCOG is a metropolitan planning organization in Bellingham, (1) and Hugh will be speaking to us on a number of matters related to gateways and corridors.

Hugh has a Public Policy and Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a received his undergraduate degree from the University of California Berkeley.

Seated next to Hugh is David Oxner. David Oxner was appointed as the Executive Director of the Gateway Initiative with the Province of Nova Scotia in 2006. He has held a number of important positions with a number of varied and distinguished entities, including the Departments of Tourism, Culture, and Heritage, and Economic Development in Nova Scotia. And he has also worked with the City of Dartmouth, the Halifax Board of Trade, Day & Ross Transport Group, and the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Finally, and certainly not least, we have with us today Sean O'Dell. Sean is the executive director of the Windsor Gateway Project with Transport Canada. Sean has more than 25 years of experience working with governments, international organizations, and multinational companies. He has occupied positions with the government of Alberta, with the Economics Department of the University of Western Ontario where I am now employed, and he has also been with Natural Resources Canada and as the chief economist of the International Energy Agency in Paris, France. And one could well imagine that working as the chief economist with the International Energy Agency in Paris, France, one might not have a lot of energy for one's work, but apparently Sean did.

So without any further ado, we will proceed in order. Sean, please go ahead.


Sean O'Dell *

MR. O'DELL: Thank you. I just want to give a bit of an update overview of the Windsor-Detroit Crossing project or the Detroit River International Crossing, DRIC, one of the worst acronyms I have ever encountered but we seem to be stuck with at the moment. That is with an I, not an E.

And anyway, I guess we are going to have time for questions at the end of this as well, so I will sort of move through and try to bring you up to date as to where we are in our project.

The Bi-national Transportation Partnership is a four-party organization made up of the federal governments of Canada and the United States, and the state of Michigan and the province of Ontario, all represented by the various transportation departments; (2) in the case of the United States federal government through federal highways, which is a part of USDOT. (3)

The purpose of our study was to establish additional capacity crossing the border in Windsor-Detroit area, across the Detroit River. Certainly following September 11th, 2001, but even before then, it became increasingly obvious that capacity constraints were going to start to bite on the Detroit River crossing.

At the moment, there is one bridge. (4) It is about 80 years old, a four-lane bridge, and there is a tunnel which was only two lanes which is also of a similar vintage, around 80 years old. (5) The tunnel is not able to handle large modern trucks so some 99 percent of the truck traffic going across the Detroit River uses the Ambassador Bridge. (6)

The purpose of the DRIC study then is to address the long-term regional transportation mobility needs. We need new border crossing capacity as I have said, and we need to integrate this whole system into the existing infrastructure. Now we run into some particular difficulties in Windsor, which I will talk about in a couple of minutes.

In terms of the importance of this crossing, some 28 percent of Canada-U.S. trade goes across the Detroit River, (7) and as I said, it uses almost entirely the existing Ambassador Bridge; over 80 percent of the goods that are shipped go by truck. (8) There is also a truck ferry, but the use of that is essentially restricted to hazardous materials transportation. (9)

We have in the neighborhood of three-and-a-half million trucks or some 10,000 trucks a day crossing the bridge, and about 10 million cars, which is a combination of tourists, but also commuter traffic. (10) There are a fair number of people that live in Windsor and Detroit but work on the other side of the border. (11) So there is a steady kind of morning and afternoon rush hour traffic as well. That is more equally shared between the tunnel and the existing bridge. (12)

I cannot overstress the importance of this crossing to the economies in both of our countries. And this is not just a Windsor-Detroit or even a Michigan-Ontario issue, and it is certainly not restricted just to the auto industry as you might think, given where it is located. In fact, if you rank the U.S. states by the volume and value of trade going across the Ambassador Bridge, you get the usual suspects at the top of the list--Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. (13) But coming in fifth is actually Texas (14) and coming in sixth is California. (15) So we are in fact shipping goods from all of Eastern and Central Canada, across the Ambassador Bridge at the moment, across the Detroit River, and they are going to all parts of the United States. (16)

I think as Ambassador Wilson pointed out at the lunch, some 35 states see Canada as their largest export market. (17) Not only in terms of value of goods, but also through the employment impacts associated with that trade.

In terms of Ohio, since I am in Ohio, we focus a little bit more. Ohio exported about $18 billion in goods to Canada in 2006 and imported about 15.3. (18) It is the second. (19) Canada is Ohio's largest export market, and the trade is almost equivalent to the state's export sales to all other countries combined. (21) Some 275,000 jobs--it is a very precise number, 276,500 -about 275,000 jobs in Ohio are supported by Canada-U.S. trade. (22)

In addition, more than half a million Canadians visited Ohio in 2006, spending over a hundred million dollars here, and in turn, Ohio residents made 700,000-plus visits to Canada spending about $280 million. (23)

The approach we have taken is a coordinated bi-national environmental assessment. It has been thorough, open, and transparent. We have had well over 200 meetings and public sessions over the past three years dealing with all issues of the environmental file. So certainly air pollution, noise pollution, you would expect at long, busy corridors like this, but also analyzing any cultural impacts we might have depending on where we actually choose to locate the bridge.

We have met with government groups and other government agencies. We have met with the private sector, we have met with special interest groups in terms of community impacts, and we have met with a large number of environmental organizations who have concerns about making sure that the impact of this new crossing is adequately mitigated so that the impacts, while there will be some, will not be severe.

It is necessary of course that we choose the same bridge location on the Canadian and U.S. sides. It would not be at all appropriate for us to have half a bridge going one way and half another and not meeting in the middle, and so we have had a very detailed coordinated process throughout.

We are approaching the end of the environmental assessment phase of the project and should be announcing the final location of the new crossing sometime mid June to mid July time period. We are just trying to finalize the last few things that are necessary to make that announcement.

On the U.S. side, the draft environmental impact statement, or the DEIS, was published in the Federal Register on February 29. (24) That started a 60-day comment period, which will wrap up at the end of April. There is a possibility for that comment period to be extended, but we will not know that until the end of April as to whether or not anybody has petitioned to be allowed some more time to provide additional comments. Barring that, then, I say we would be in a position to announce the new crossing location by the middle of June. (25)

This is just a very busy little schematic that shows all of the kinds of agencies and cross-reference work that we have been doing over the three years. You will see all sorts of U.S. and Canadian regulatory agencies as well as first nation groups or Aboriginal groups, the Indian tribes on the U.S. side as well...

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