Mayor blasts chamber of commerce for 'being used' by Ambassador Bridge company

Mayor Drew Dilkens says the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is "allowing itself to be used" by the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge in an attempt to circumvent critical negotiations that must be completed before a new span can be constructed.

Chamber wrote to public safety minister asking for 6 more customs booths to be opened

Canada-bound trucks backed up on the Ambassador Bridge on March 23, 2018. (Cheri Centala/Detroit International Bridge Company)

Mayor Drew Dilkens says the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is "allowing itself to be used" by the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge in an attempt to circumvent critical negotiations that must be completed before the company can build its new span.

In a letter to Canada's public safety minister Ralph Goodale, Dilkens blasts the chamber's CEO Matt Marchand for contacting the minister about opening up six additional customs booths west of Huron Church Road without informing city officials.

Marchand did not immediately return request for comment.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is being "used" by the the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

In his letter, the mayor points to a process set up by the federal government meant to maintain the conditions that must be met before the Canadian Transit Company can build its second span and adds allowing the company to open those booths would hamstring the city in negotiations around the relocation of Firehall No. 4, which must be settled before the new bridge can be built.

"Minister, the issue of border delays is an important one for my community," wrote Dilkens. "However, at this time caution should be exercised when looking at solutions to any delay that may exist when entering Canada using the Ambassador Bridge."

Huron Church must close if lanes open

He also quoted a 2008 letter from the CBSA director general who stated if the booths on Huron Church were opened the road would have to immediately be closed.

"The issue is far too important ... to let special interest groups cloud the facts," wrote Dilkens in a Tweet posted around 8:30 p.m. "We have been at this for more than a decade and we won't quit until we have a deal that's fair for residents."

Dan Stamper from the CTC says the CBSA refuses to use 6 truck inspection lanes that were completed west of Huron Church Road in 2007. (CBC/Google Maps)

As for the delays, the mayor said he believes the long wait times can be attributed to the Ambassador Bridge itself.

"Some may suggest that simply adding more CBSA staff will eliminate any traffic problems that exist at this location," he wrote. "However, your own staff would likely indicate the majority of backups at this location area  result of ongoing construction on the Ambassador Bridge undertaken by the CTC and/or related to traffic management on the Ambassador Bridge itself."

Consultation between CBSA and CTC continues

In a statement sent to CBC News, Goodale's press secretary wrote that the bridge company won't be able to operate the six booths unless they meet all of the conditions and requirements set out by the government.

"To date these requirements have not been met. Consultation between CBSA and the CTC is ongoing," added Scott Bardsley.

Dilkens ended his letter by writing that while he understands the chamber's mission is to support area businesses, the city must consider broader issues. He asked Goodale to do the same.

"In particular the city must consider mitigation of the known negative impacts from the bridge, protect the health and safety of its citizens and seek an acceptable degree fo compatibility with the surrounding community."