pursues rail tunnel instead of truck route
Published: November 15, 2007
Source: By Dave Battagello, Windsor Star
The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership is considering building a
$350-million high-clearance tube beside its 100-year-old Windsor rail
tunnel, to accommodate today's larger double-stack rail cars.
DRTP officials have been busy in recent weeks meeting with politicians
and transportation authorities on both sides of the border to explore
"What they presented to me was that they would drop the road component
and are pushing for the rail tunnel," said local MP Brian Masse (NDP -
Windsor West). "They are doing a financial analysis and proposing rail
DRTP's latest move is an indication it may be steering away from
controversial plans to introduce a truck route within its rail corridor,
which triggered anger among South Windsor residents who live in close
proximity. It was a plan that was rejected by both city councillors and
the binational team trying to come up with a border solution for
Since DRTP's truck plan was eliminated from consideration by a the
binational study team, DRTP has turned its focus on rail, DRTP
spokeswoman Marge Byington said.
"Right now, we are going ahead with rail and there is no considering
trucks," she said. "It's a very exciting project. The best part of the
rail tunnel is it seems to have far more people attracted to it than
DRTP is a joint partnership between CP Railway and Borealis, an
arms-length investment company of the Ontario Municipal Employees
Retirement System (OMERS), which owns the aging rail tunnel. As it is,
the tunnel's too small to handle many of today's massive modern rail
CP Railway pays for use of CN Railway's larger rail tunnel in Sarnia,
built in the 1990s, to get some of its goods across the border.
The political and business leaders DRTP officials have spoken with to
date have been supportive of the new rail tunnel plan, said Byington.
"It is an extremely necessary part of the transportation infrastructure
for Windsor-Detroit," she said. "There is a lot of interest, even as far
as Washington, because of the need of more rail infrastructure in the
Once financial analysis is complete, DRTP will work toward launching an
environmental assessment for its new rail tunnel, Byington said.
"We have started the analysis and know it can be built. Engineering is
sound. We are hoping to start (an EA) before too long."
Masse said he wants to make sure no road or truck routes are included as
part of the DRTP plan before lending support.
"What we are doing is looking at the map to see if any neighbourhood
conflicts," he said. "Also, to ensure there is no back door to add truck
transportation or new highway systems to their plan. That's critical."
Coun. Dave Brister, who represents South Windsor, was once the leader of
a neighbourhood group that fought against the DRTP truck plan because of
the potential air and noise pollution impacts. He still resides close to
He declined an invitation to meet with DRTP over its latest plan, saying
Thursday he first wants to secure a government funding commitment to
build the new truck feeder highway in Windsor leading to the border,
which would eliminate any need for the truck-route component of the DRTP
"DRTP has a history of using the rail issue to mask the larger goal to
have a truck route to help fund (with border tolls) the new rail
tunnel," Brister said. "I don't see anything different in terms of their
"Once we have our (border) road network established, by all means I'll
be happy to talk to them about rail, but I'm not prepared to do that
until that is nailed."
His wardmate Coun. Drew Dilkens did meet with DRTP.
"It was a general discussion of how they are looking to create a new
high-stack rail tunnel," he said. "My first question is what happens to
the existing tunnel. We don't want to see trucks going through it.
"The answer was passenger rail, but in terms of business case, I'm not
sure it's there. If Via and Amtrack had interest they would be running
trains through there already.
"Let me be crystal clear. I'm against running vehicles and trucks
through the city as DRTP proposed in the past."
DRTP's lobbying for a new rail tunnel has received some early support in
Michigan from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Michigan's Department of
Transportation (MDOT) and the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.
Kilpatrick called it a "vital international step" in the city's
renaissance, while MDOT director Kirk Steudle described a new larger
Windsor-Detroit rail tunnel as "a critical addition" to support
efficient movement of goods between U.S. and Canada, offering the
state's political and technical support to DRTP.
The Windsor border is North America's busiest trade corridor, handling
about $500 million daily, including 10,000 trucks crossing the
The city's border traffic expert Sam Schwartz has indicated improved use
of railways could take up to 2,000 trucks per day off city streets.
A new rail tunnel also potentially would improve chances of developing a
freight and cargo centre at Windsor Airport combining rail, air and