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Windsor Border Initiatives Improving Canada’s Premier Land Border Crossing


The four international border crossings at Windsor-Detroit carry 35% of Canada-U.S. trade per year. More than 38,000 cars, buses, and trucks traverse the truck ferry, bridge, and tunnel crossings on average each day. This volume of traffic taxes the existing infrastructure and is only expected to grow, putting more strain on the out-of-date system. The Government of Ontario partnered with the Governments of Canada, Michigan, the U.S., and local municipalities in Windsor-Essex to determine how to improve transportation infrastructure, where investments would make the most sense, and how to plan for long-term strategies for future growth. This partnership translated into the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy and the Detroit River International Crossing study. The former, a $300 million joint investment by Ontario and Canada to address short- and mediumterm issues in the network. The latter, a bi-national study of improvements to the international connection that would finally connect Highway 401 to the U.S. interstate system through an international border crossing. Together, these two initiatives are managed by a team of provincial experts in engineering, transportation and environmental planning, traffic management, real estate, construction, policy and communications, falling under the umbrella of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). The team tasked with studying and implementing improvements, targeting investments where they were needed most was MTO’s Windsor Border Initiatives Implementation Group. Their work included road-rail grade separations, infrastructure improvements at existing border crossings, and the use of Intelligent Transportation Systems in both permanent and temporary locations. The work would require unique management and partnership structures with local and regional governments. Legal agreements regarding project management and continued dialogue with both elected and non-elected individuals carried the projects forward. In addition, the team consulted with over 2,500 residents through more than 300 public meetings. Both initiatives were closely watched by private industry as any improvements to the local network and access to international markets would have a great impact on getting goods to market. As a result, the Windsor Border Initiatives Implementation Group has changed the way MTO does business. The team has led with innovation through resource planning, project management, construction, planning, and financing. For the first time, Ontario is using alternative financing to deliver a major highway infrastructure investment. 

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Garfield Dales
Geometric design, Transportation planning