Windsor businesses fed up with truck backups at Ambassador Bridge

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is asking federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale to address backups for Canada-bound trucks at the Ambassador Bridge.

Ambassador Bridge official says CBSA — not increase in traffic — is reason behind delays

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

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce (WERCC) is asking federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale to address backups for Canada-bound trucks at the Ambassador Bridge.

"There continues to be ongoing, lengthy and costly backups emanating from the Canadian side of the border at the Ambassador Bridge," wrote WERCC president and CEO Matt Marchand.

"In addition to the increased accident risk this is causing along I-75 in Detroit, and our responsibility as good neighbours not to do that, the cost of all of this delay and uncertainty to our business community is huge."

Marchand said the delays are affecting the competitiveness of Canadian businesses and he has asked Goodale for a meeting in Ottawa along with officials from the bridge.

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

Bridge company says politics behind delays

Dan Stamper, president of Detroit International Bridge Company and Canadian Transit Company, which operate the Ambassador Bridge, says he has been raising the issue with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for more than a year.

He says the CBSA, not an increase in traffic, is to blame for the backups, which he says has caused serious collisions on Interstate 75, a major highway in Metro Detroit.

"Traffic is down," he said. "This is an issue of CBSA has booths available and then don't man them. They won't open the lanes when traffic backs up, and it ends up on the freeway [I-75 in Detroit] and then they scramble around, get a few more people, open a couple more booths — it takes hours to clear it up again."

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

The bridge's primary inspections plaza, located east of Huron Church Road, has 23 inspection lanes. Ten are for passenger vehicles, 10 can be used by either trucks or passenger vehicles, and three are for trucks only.

In 2007, the bridge company built six truck lanes west of Huron Church Road to increase capacity. Stamper says the CBSA refuses to use them.

"I've said to them, whatever it is you need to do to open these lanes ... I will pay for your equipment, and they have refused to use those lanes," Stamper said. "It's very clear that Canada wants to keep traffic backed up to prove other issues, like the need for the Gordie Howe Bridge."

Stamper also said ongoing labour negotiations between CBSA and its workers may also be contributing to the delays.

Tap on the player to hear Stamper's conversation with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre.

What's causing massive backups for Canada-bound trucks at the Ambassador Bridge? According to bridge president Dan Stamper, it's not an increase in traffic — it's politics. 6:23

CBC News has reached out to Public Safety Canada and has yet to receive a response.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.