The Ambassador Bridge
Although it seems like an absurd question at some level, the question of whether a private individual or business should be allowed to own a major access point — perhaps even the single most critical access point — along the U.S.-Canada border came to mind as I read an article from The Globe and Mail sent to me last week by a Canadian friend. The Ambassador Bridge, which spans the Detroit River, is the principal transportation link between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, and across this route passes an astounding 40% or so of all goods that trade between Canada and the United States.
According to the G&M article, the federal government in Ottawa has offered to loan nearly US $600 million to cash-strapped Michigan to help finance the construction of a new more modern bridge in an effort to relieve the massive congestion that currently exists on the Canadian side of this border crossing. Standing in the way of this much-needed improvement is the Detroit International Bridge Company, which actually owns the bridge and, unsurprisingly, wants to prevent any new bridge that it does not control.
Even less than a century ago it was common for ferry crossings across many rivers in each country to be operated by private citizens who were enterprising enough to organize a ferry service. In the present situation of what to do about the need for a better river span, I’ll concede that there are many nuances and competing interests involved that are easily glossed over. Yet, it is amazing that at this late date, such a major artery of commerce and one that is so vital to both countries could be solely in the hands of a private entity and without any substantial public oversight.