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Cablegate: Update On Plans for New Detroit River Crossing

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

251444Z Oct 05





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Update on Plans for New Detroit River Crossing

Ref: (A) Toronto 2255 (B) Toronto 2778 (notal)

Sensitive but Unclassified - Protect accordingly.

1. (U) Action request contained in para 12.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a closed-door session on October
19, 2005 in Detroit, the Corradino Group described to
U.S. federal and state government officials the status
of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study
of potential new border crossings and plaza sites on the
U.S. side of the Detroit River. The DRIC study results
will not be released to the public until November 28.
Environmental and construction issues dictate
construction of a new bridge, rather than a tunnel,
thereby ruling out the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership
Proposal (also known as the "Jobs Tunnel"). A
combination of social and environmental factors led the
study to focus on centrally-located crossings between
downtown Detroit and Windsor. Any of the proposed
alternatives would be directly connected to Interstate
75 on the U.S. side. By November 4 the Federal Highway
Administration is seeking concurrence from all concerned
federal and state agencies with the proposed centrally
located sites (see para 12). On November 28 the
recommended sites will be released to the general public
in both Canada and the U.S. END SUMMARY

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3. (SBU) In a day-long closed-door session on October
19, 2005 in Detroit, Joe Corradino described to U.S.
federal and state government officials (including
Poloff) the status of the DRIC study of potential new
border crossings and plaza sites on the U.S. side of the
Detroit River (NOTE: The Corradino Group, a consultancy
firm specializing in engineering, planning, and
construction projects, is conducting the research and
analysis and producing the U.S. version of the DRIC
study under contract with the Michigan Department of
Transportation. END NOTE). Corradino outlined how and
why several potential crossings had been eliminated from
the study in the past few months.

Centrally-located Bridge Beats Out Tunnel

4. (SBU) Corradino said constructing a new tunnel has
been ruled out because of the geology of the Detroit
River bed (solid rock - nearly impossible to bore
through -- with a very thin overlay of sediment -- not
enough to keep a tunnel placed on top of the rock from
floating to the surface) combined with the need for at
least six additional lanes of traffic to meet future
projected traffic volume. According to Corradino, the
Detroit River Tunnel Partnership proposal (also known as
the "Jobs Tunnel") was eliminated because it would not
significantly improve regional mobility and would not
allow for a sufficient additional volume of traffic to
provide redundancy for the Ambassador Bridge (NOTE: the
Jobs Tunnel would only provide two additional lanes of
cross-border traffic. END NOTE). Potential down-river
crossings were eliminated after consultations with the
public, he said. Potential crossings upriver from
downtown Detroit and Windsor, including those near Belle
Isle, were eliminated for environmental reasons.

5. (SBU) Corradino observed that the U.S. portion of
the study is now focused on mid-river bridge crossings
in the vicinity of the existing Ambassador Bridge and
truck ferry. The relatively narrow channel at this site
will enable a bridge to be constructed entirely out of
the navigable channel. This means the biggest
challenges for the project will be social rather than
environmental, he said.

6. (SBU) Corradino said that, if the Canadian side
rejects a potential site, the U.S. would also drop it.
David Wake, Windsor Project Coordinator for the Ontario
Ministry of Transportation, agreed that, if the U.S.
side finds a potential crossing to be unacceptable,
Canada would likewise no longer consider it.

7. (SBU) Wake noted that Canadian experts, who are
proceeding on a separate but parallel track, also agree
that the central area under consideration is the most
promising. Wake said the Canadians rank order the
central area crossings differently, noting that the
Ambassador Bridge site ranks poorly from a Canadian
perspective because of the impact a new/additional plaza
and more traffic on Huron Church Road would have on
downtown Windsor (ref (B)).

8. (SBU) U.S. and Canadian experts are focused on
narrowing the range of potential crossing and plaza
sites for a new publicly-funded crossing of the Detroit
River. They acknowledge that their rejection of a
potential site would not preclude a private sector
entrepreneur from requesting and obtaining the needed
permits to construct and operate a new crossing without
public sector financing (ref (B)). The twinning of the
Ambassador Bridge and Detroit River Tunnel Partnership
proposals could be constructed without public sector
endorsement by the DRIC study.

Geologic and Diplomatic Planning Constraints

9. (SBU) Unmapped brine wells, some of them 1,200 feet
deep, which predate the 1900s, could complicate the
placement of bridge footings on both sides of the river,
Corradino observed. In the coming months the U.S. will
conduct a $2 million geological-technical analysis to
determine where bridge footings could be placed on the
U.S. side.

10. (SBU) James Kirschensteiner, Assistant Division
Administrator (Michigan) of the Federal Highway
Administration, said the DRIC study has not considered
co-locating U.S. and Canadian border facilities at a new
crossing site since negotiations to conclude a Shared
Border Accord are not yet completed. Corradino said his
group is identifying potential plaza sites of between
100 to 200 acres, to accommodate future inspection
needs. Plazas on the U.S. side of the river would have
a dedicated connection to I-75. Wake noted the
Canadians are looking for 80 to 100 acre sites for
plazas, per request of the Canadian Border Services

Next Steps

11. (SBU) Wake said Canadian experts will publicly
unveil their conclusions about practical alternatives on
November 28, when the Canadian side will brief concerned
local government councils. Public meetings to discuss
the conclusions will be November 29 through December 1
in Windsor, LaSalle and Amherstburg. Mohammed
Alghurabi, DRIC Project Manager, Michigan Department of
Transportation, said the U.S. side will also publicly
announce the selection of practical alternatives on
November 28. U.S. public meetings to discuss the
conclusions will be held from December 5 to 8 in the
Detroit metro area.

12. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Department is requested to
provide informal concurrence with the centrally-located
practical alternatives for a future Detroit River
Crossing by November 4 to James Kirschensteiner
( (NOTE: All involved
federal and state government agencies -- Department of
Homeland Security (Customs and Border Protection and
Coast Guard), General Services Administration, Army
Corps of Engineers, Interior Department (U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service), the Environmental Protection Agency,
and the Michigan Department of Transportation -- have
been asked to provide comments to the U.S. Department of
Transportation by November 4. END NOTE). A copy of the
draft report has been express-mailed to WHA/CAN.


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