The Ambassador Bridge, also known as the Ambassador International Bridge, is a suspension bridge that connects Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario over the Detroit River. It is the busiest international border crossing in North America by trade volume, with 25% of all merchandise trade between the United States and Canada crossing the Ambassador. The crossing is owned by Manuel “Matty” Moroun via the Detroit International Bridge Company in the United States and the Canadian Transit Company in Canada.
The need for a permanent, fixed crossing over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor was apparent by the late 19th century. The Michigan Central and Great Western railroads operated ferries between two cities but both well over capacity, with over 700 freight cars waiting to cross the Detroit River on any given day. 4 Passengers were also delayed because of capacity constraints.
In 1909-10, the Michigan Central constructed the Detroit River Tunnel for its trains but a bridge was more preferable by the Canada Southern Railway and others. 8 While the U.S. Congress requested a study for such a bridge in 1889, no crossing was approved because representatives of the shipping industry opposed any piers in the river as they claimed it would be a hazard to navigation.
To alleviate shipping concerns and congestion at the Michigan Central Tunnel, the bridge plans were revived in 1919. 8 A proposed structure, designed by the McClintic-Marshall Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, would include a record-breaking 1,850-foot suspended central span. 1 Construction began on August 16, 1927, and the new 7,500-foot Ambassador Bridge opened to traffic at the cost of $23.5 million on November 15, 1929. 1 9
In 1979, the original owners of the bridge placed the bridge on the New York Stock Exchange and shares were exchanged. 2 3 Manuel Moroun was able to purchase shares and eventually acquired the structure.
Originally painted gloss black, the bridge was repainted teal during a five-year repainting project between 1995 and 2000. 10
The Ambassador Bridge, and specifically Moroun, had been the source of much controversy for decades. Although the crossing did not hold a monopoly on freight traffic over the river, it was the busiest international border crossing in North America by trade volume, with 25% of all merchandise trade between the United States and Canada crossing the bridge. 6 It was also the shortest truck route from Toronto to the American Midwest.
In 2010 and 2011, the Wayne County Circuit Court found the Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company in contempt for failing to directly connect the Ambassador Bridge to Interstates 75 and 96 as part of the related Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MIDOT) Gateway Project. 7 The Gateway Project was a complete realignment of Interstate 75 from Rosa Parks Boulevard to Clark Street in order to directly connect the Ambassador Bridge to the freeway. The improvements from the freeway to the Ambassador Bridge, which would normally be under the control of the state of Michigan, were left to Moroun, who never completed the ramps between the interstate and the bridge. 11
In January 2012, Moroun and his chief deputy of the company were jailed for non-compliance with orders to complete the ramps. Moroun protested the construction of the ramps as he stated that it would siphon all truck traffic from his duty-free store and fuel pumps located at the western approach of the Ambassador Bridge. After years of legal battles, stalling by Moroun and activism by local residents who were tired of truck traffic rummaging through the Hubbard-Richard neighborhood, the ramps were completed by the MIDOT and opened to traffic in September 2012. 12
- State: Michigan, Ontario
- Route: Private
- Type: Wire Suspension
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 7,500 feet
- Main Span Length: 1,850 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- Hatt, W.K. Detroit River Bridge. Pittsburgh: McClintic-Marshall Company, 1930: 4-7. Print.
- Voyles, S. “The Man Behind the Bridge.” Corp! May-June 2009: n. pag. Print.
- “Wikileaks and the DRIC Smoking Guns.” Corp! November 2011: n. pag. Print.
- Guyette, Curt. “Over the Border: Legislator Says Proposed Development Authority Would Create Jobs, Boost Economy.” Metro Times [Detroit] 28 Mar. 2007: n. pag. Print.
- O’Brien, Jennifer. “Bridge Brouhaha.” London Free Press 3 Aug. 2011: n. pag. Print.
- “The Proposed New US-Canada Bridge: Guide to the Controversy.” Detroit Free Press 12 Jul. 2012: n. pag. Print.
- Michigan Department of Transportation v. Detroit International Bridge Company. No. 09-015581-CK. Wayne County Circuit Court. 3 Nov. 2011. Print.
- Mason, Philip P. The Ambassador Bridge: A Monument to Progress. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987: 32-48. Print.
- Hanson, Adriane and Kathleen Dow. Finding aid for Ambassador Bridge Records, 1927-1930. University of Michigan. Web. Article.
- Rohan, Barry. “Paint Job Spans Nations.” Detroit Free Press 11 Oct. 1997: n. pag. Print.
- Helms, Matt and John Gallagher. “Mich. billionaire, 84, jailed over bridge dispute.” Detroit Free Press 12 Jan. 2012: n. pag. Print.
- Brownell, Claire. “Ramps Linking Bridge to Michigan Highways Open to Traffic.” Windsor Star 21 Sept. 2012: n. pag. Print.