State officials celebrated a major milestone toward finishing the long-delayed Gateway Project Tuesday.
They opened a road that will route trucks directly to the Ambassador Bridge from surrounding highways.
The Gateway Project is meant to better connect the bridge and highways. It’s also supposed to keep heavy truck traffic out of southwest Detroit neighborhoods.
But construction disputes between the project’s joint partners—the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge--tied up the project in court for years. In March, a judge turned the whole project over to MDOT.
Detroit State Representative Rashida Tlaib says opening the truck route is a huge boost for surrounding neighborhoods, where heavy trucks have rumbled along residential streets for years.
“For our families that host this international crossing, it means less asthma among our children, [and] safer play areas for our kids,” Tlaib said. “It means our children at nearby schools don’t have to dodge trucks. It means we have our neighborhood back.”
But state officials say this should only be the start of infrastructure improvements along the Michigan-Canada border.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley was at the truck route opening. He says it represents more than just easing traffic back-ups.
“So as you see the trucks moving back and forth, you hear that sound of those diesel engines going by, that’s the sound of jobs and opportunity in Michigan.”
Calley says the Gateway Project is a small, if important, step.
But he notes that Governor Snyder has much larger border infrastructure plans—including building another bridge crossing, now called the New International Trade Crossing.
That plan faces fierce opposition from the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, and some state lawmakers.
A vote to build a new bridge stalled in the legislature last year, and the bridge’s owners are pushing a ballot referendum that would ban the state from building new international crossings without voter approval.
“If the opening of a single truck ramp by MDOT causes a ceremony, just think of the major party we could have if MDOT opened the other three connecting ramps they have barricaded for the last three and a half years,” Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper said in a written response to Tuesday’s ceremonial opening.
“It’s ironic that the Gateway lawsuit started because MDOT wanted the ramps closed and the Ambassador Bridge wanted them open.”