A Neighborhood Returns To Its Pre-Moroun State
The Ambassador Bridge truck road officially (finally) opened today. The road, constructed by MDOT, allows border-crossing trucks exiting the Ambassador Bridge direct access to interstate highways.
“I’m so happy for the people of the city of Detroit who have Fort Street back,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at this morning’s event formally opening the truck road.
For southwest Detroit, this is a long time coming. Area residents have been plagued with a number of health issues, including high rates of asthma among both children and adults. Heavy trucks idling on local streets have been cited as partially to blame.
The new road shortens the time and distance bridge travelers will spend in southwest Detroit and keeps them off neighborhood streets.
“This lowers the stress level,” said Pastor Matthew Bode of Corktown’s Spirit of Hope Church. “It creates a calmer atmosphere—less traffic, less pollution, less noise. Rosa Parks will not need to be resurfaced every year. Kids will be safer riding their bikes, going to school, and doing things kids do.”
The truck road was a particularly contentious portion of the Gateway Project dispute. The $230 million public-private partnership was intended to improve connections between U.S. highways and the Ambassador Bridge.
Earlier this year, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards stripped control of the project from the Matty Moroun-owned DIBC—the Ambassador Bridge’s operator—because, Edwards ruled, DIBC had not honored their contract with the state.
“The DIBC never built what they agreed to build,” said MDOT engineer Tony Kratofil. “In order to get them to cooperate, we were forced to go to court to get them to enforce the contract…yet still delayed and defied the court’s order”
For truck drivers who use the Ambassador Bridge, the nation’s busiest commercial border crossing, the new road provides a quicker, more direct route to the freeway.
“They just go around this loop and they’re on the interstate,” Kratofil said. “Before they had to drive several blocks down Fort Street, make a left hand turn, make a right hand turn, make another left hand turn.”
MDOT officials estimate that it would take trucks 5-10 minutes to get from the bridge plaza to the freeway on surface streets during optimal traffic conditions. The new, streetlight-free route takes about two minutes on the dedicated road.
Activism pays off
Last October, neighborhood activists organized a protest to physically prevent trucks from exiting the bridge plaza onto Fort Street to protest DIBC’s failure to construct the truck road as envisioned in the Gateway plan.
“We did take unorthodox methods of trying to get attention to this issue and it was fun,” said state Rep. Rashida Tlaib today. “We did everything from tearing down fences to blocking the trucks to calling elected officials for not standing up for us.”
At last October’s protest, Bill Johnson stood in front of a rig with his pet dog. Johnson and his dog were among those in attendance this morning.
“I had hope this was going to get done,” said Johnson.
MDOT is still working to complete the nearly $10 million project. Per Judge Edwards’ court order, DIBC is picking up the tab. MDOT officials say they expect all work to be complete by early October.
Among the items still left to complete is a direct connection for interstate traffic heading to Canada.
MDOT officials say they’re working around DIBC’s duty-free store and gas pumps built during the initial Gateway construction.
The Other Bridge Issue
Today’s announcement also served as a backdrop to pitch the New International Trade Crossing plan—championed by the Snyder Administration, but opposed by DIBC and the company’s allies in the state legislature—to build a second Detroit-Windsor bridge.
“The worst bottleneck in the whole Pan-American freeway system is right here—everything that happens between when you get off I-75 and get on the 401 in Canada,” said Calley.
“We know, as good as the work that’s done here, it’s not enough. We need a modern end-to-end border solution—the New International Trade Crossing.”