Canada should consider buying Ambassador Bridge, Ottawa told

Canada should consider buying the privately owned, 87-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., says the man whose job it already is to get a new crossing built just down river.

'It's worth further discussions,' says expert advising Ottawa on construction of new bridge

The Ambassador Bridge, seen from the Windsor side of the border in 2015, is 87 years old and one of the busiest land border crossings in North America. (Geoff Nixon/CBC)

Canada should consider buying the privately owned, 87-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., says the man already tasked with building a brand new crossing just down river.

Dwight Duncan, chairman of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, which oversees construction of the $4-billion Gordie Howe International Bridge, says Ottawa should also own what is one of the busiest land border crossings in North America.

More than 25 per cent of all merchandise trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the aging Ambassador Bridge. It's estimated that between $500 million and $750 million USD in trade and an average of 10,000 commercial vehicles pass daily over the Ambassador Bridge.

The span over the Detroit River is owned by U.S. billionaire Matty Moroun, who has taken governments agencies in Canada and the U.S. to court a number of times in efforts to thwart the construction of a new, government-owned span, just kilometres down the road.

In a meeting with Ambassador Bridge ownership, Duncan recommended "the federal government investigate buying the competing Ambassador Bridge" and that he "recommended to the government of Canada that it's worth further discussions," Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority spokeswoman Heather Grondin wrote in an email.

Neither Duncan or the bridge authority said how much the bridge might be worth or how much Ottawa should spend on the span.

Duncan, at the request of the Government of Canada, was asked to respond to an email sent from Moroun's son, Matthew Moroun, first sent to the Toronto Star and then other members of the media earlier this year.

Matthew Moroun, vice-chair of CenTra Inc., the parent company of the Ambassador Bridge, said back then that the company wants to take a "fresh approach to fix old problems."

According to the email, after a decade spent "fighting unproductively" with the Conservative government and Stephen Harper, the Ambassador Bridge Company wants to take advantage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's attitude of change.

"This Windsor-Detroit border can be a shining example of efficiency and co-operation. I'm inspired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's desire to take a new look and a fresh approach to fix old problems," Moroun wrote. "This situation is just such a problem. I'm ready to do the same."  

The purpose of Duncan's recent meeting with bridge officials was to determine if further meetings should be undertaken by the Government of Canada, Grondin wrote.

Duncan has recommended that further discussions could begin. Determining that will have to be made by the Government of Canada.

Ambassador Bridge officials did not respond to interview requests made by CBC.