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Ambassador Bridge. Photo by Mark Goebel, Creative Commons license.

The Ambassador Bridge is not only an unmistakable part of Detroit’s skyline, it’s also the busiest port of entry in terms of commercial vehicles to Canada. In short – it’s crucial for trade between the United States and Canada.

The 86 year old span has been cited by Transport Canada as having unsafe railings and curbs.

The Direction concerns safety deficiencies found in a section of the bridge’s railings and curbs on the Canadian side. The deficiencies were observed during a Transport Canada safety inspection in August 2016, which prompted the department to issue the Direction in the interest of public safety.

The deficiencies pose a risk to the public and the department has advised the CTC to install temporary concrete barriers between the traffic on the bridge and the outside curb as a safety precaution.

This will have an immediate effect on traffic, as some parts of the bridge will go down to one lane each way because of the increased concrete barriers. Here’s how they’re to be installed, per Transit Canada:

  1. on the Canadian-bound westernmost lane of the Ambassador Bridge from the abutment of the bridge adjacent to the Canadian custom plaza to the Canadian tower adjacent to the suspended span; and
  2. on the United States-bound easternmost lane of the Ambassador Bridge from the abutment of the bridge adjacent to the Canadians custom plaza to the Canadian tower adjacent to the suspended span.

In strongly worded statement, the Canadian Minister of Transport was clear.

“The safety of the Ambassador Bridge is of critical importance, and I support the measures taken by my department to protect public safety. I ask the Canadian Transit Company, as the bridge’s owner, to do everything it can to speed up repair work in order to reduce crossing delays. Should action not be taken in a timely manner, I will not hesitate to take additional safety measures,” said Canadian Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.

The Canadian Transit Company is a wholly owned subsidiary on the Canadian side of the Detroit International Bridge Company.

The current bridge’s useful life is nearing an end, but plans for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge have been hitting snags as far as purchasing some needed land (that is owned by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Matty Maroun). Despite happy pronouncements by local politicians, it looks like there’s no reasonable way the second span is getting started on time. Maroun supports a second span, but one owned by him next to his current bridge.

A second span is a hot issue, since due to the large volume of trade that goes across it, some believe a structural failure of the current single bridge or a long-term closing could throw both the state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario into an economic depression.

For traffic updates on wait times to cross the bridge (or other international crossings) go here.