The governments of Canada and Ontario are marking the completion of a new Canadian plaza at the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.
The federal government provided $10 million towards the project, while the province made up the remainder of the $35 million total.
The plaza was the final item of the $300 million Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy from both governments and was meant to accommodate backups at the tunnel following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the traffic congestion isn’t as much of an issue anymore, but it will help with any future problems.
“If it ever happens again, we have a system that can handle that type of traffic flow in the future,” Dilkens said following a Tuesday news conference. “None of these big projects happen quickly when you’re dealing with government, but I’m glad to see that it’s done.”
Among the upgrades are new vehicle access lanes, new buildings for the Canada Border Services Agency and tunnel maintenance and new secondary inspection booths. The project also included updates to the duty-free parking area, municipal parking lots and existing intersections.
Construction of the plaza began in September 2012 and the contract with Coco Paving Inc. was completed in the fall.
The construction included closing part of Goyeau Street near Windsor City Hall, which created some early criticism of the project. Dilkens said it was an “easy trade off” to close the street for what the final project provides.
Essex MP Jeff Watson said the federal government is working to allow inspection into plazas for greater security.
“That will aid in some potential issues that way, but these issues are usually local law enforcement once they leave federal property,” said Watson, also the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport.
The LGWEM strategy, which began in 2004, included other projects like the widening of Highway 401 near Tilbury, separating the railroad from the streets on Walker Road and Howard Avenue and improvements to County Road 22.
Kathryn McGarry, parliamentary secretary to the Ontario minister of transportation, said completion of the project was “a long time coming” and credited the success to the two upper levels of government working together.
“We recognized that Windsor and Essex County needed help immediately while we are addressing a longer term solution at the border,” said McGarry, also the MPP for Cambridge.
Watson said these plaza upgrades also compliment the New International Trade Crossing and R.H. Herb Gray Parkway projects.
“Secure and efficient border crossings, whether by tunnel or bridge, are of vital importance to the economies of both Canada and the U.S,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to advance such projects and to pursue our common goals, so we can use trade and transportation to move us ahead into a prosperous future.”
Watson said the new bridge, also called the Detroit River International Crossing, is at the preparation stage with property still to be negotiated on both sides of the border and the request for proposal still ahead.
“We want to proceed at pace to make sure we are moving on that project, both for economic and national security, but of course it will mean staffing as well.”