Ambassador Bridge

Ambassador Bridge
Ambassador Bridge

Ambassador Bridge from the Canadian side of the Detroit River
Official name Ambassador Bridge
Carries LECT, 4 undivided lanes connecting I-75, I-96 and Hwy 3
Crosses Detroit River
Locale Detroit, Michigan – Windsor, Ontario
Maintained by Detroit International Bridge Company and Canadian Transit Company
Design Suspension bridge
Total length 7,500 feet (2,300 m)[1]
Longest span 1,850 feet (560 m)[1]
Clearance below 152 feet (46 m)[1]
Construction begin August 16, 1927[2]
Construction end November 6, 1929[2]
Opened November 11, 1929; 82 years ago (November 11, 1929)[2]
Toll US$4.00 / CA$4.75
Daily traffic 10,000+ trucks per day, 4000+ autos per day[citation needed]
Coordinates 42°18′43.02″N 83°4′26.82″W / 42.31195°N 83.0741167°W / 42.31195; -83.0741167Coordinates: 42°18′43.02″N 83°4′26.82″W / 42.31195°N 83.0741167°W / 42.31195; -83.0741167
Ambassador Bridge is located in Michigan

The Ambassador Bridge is a suspension bridge that connects Detroit, Michigan, in the United States, with Windsor, Ontario, in Canada.[3] It is the busiest international border crossing in North America in terms of trade volume: more than 25 percent of all merchandise trade between the United States and Canada crosses the bridge. A 2004 Border Transportation Partnership study showed that 150,000 jobs in the region and US$13 billion in annual production depend on the Windsor–Detroit international border crossing.[4]

The bridge is owned by Grosse Pointe billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun through the Detroit International Bridge Company,[5] which holds a monopoly on commercial truck traffic.[6] Moroun also owns the nearby Ammex Detroit Duty Free Store, which has a monopoly on duty-free fuel.[7]



After the American Civil War, the Detroit–Windsor was a center for railroads in the area. The Michigan Central and the Great Western railroads in addition to others operated on either side of the border connecting Chicago with the Atlantic Seaboard. To cross the Detroit River, these railroads operated ferries between docks on either side. The ferries lacked the capacity to handle the shipping needs of the railroads, and frequently there were 700–1,000 freight cars waiting to cross the river and passengers were delayed in transit. Warehouses in Chicago were forced to store grain that could not be shipped to eastern markets, and foreign goods were stored in eastern warehouses waiting shipment to the western United States. The net effect of these delays increased commodity prices in the country, and both merchants and farmers wanted a solution from the railroads.[8]

The Michigan Central proposed the construction of a tunnel under the river with the support of their counterparts at the Great Western Railway. Construction started in 1871 and continued until ventilating equipment failed the next year; work was soon abandoned. Attention turned to the idea of building a railroad bridge over the river in 1873, and the US Army Corps of Engineers commissioned a study of a bridge over the Detroit River. Representatives of the shipping industry on the Great Lakes opposed any bridge with piers in the river as a hazard to navigation. Discussions continued for the remainder of the decade to no avail; a bridge over the Detroit River was not approved. The US Congress requested a new study for a bridge in 1889, and again no bridge was approved. Finally, the Michigan Central built the Detroit River Tunnel in 1909–10 to carry trains under the river. This tunnel benefited the Michigan Central and Great Western railroads, but the Canada Southern Railway and other lines still preferred a bridge over the river.[9]

Plans for a bridge were revived in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I and to honor the "youth of Canada and the United States who served in the Great War."[10]


The bridge, over the Detroit River, had the longest suspended central span in the world when it was completed in 1929—1,850 feet (564 m), a title it would hold until the opening of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. It can be seen from Ford Field and the total bridge length is 7,500 feet (2,286 m). Construction began in 1927 and was completed in 1929. The architect was the McClintic-Marshall Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The bridge is styled in a mixture of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architectural designs, with some Gothic architecture blended in. It is made primarily out of steel; however, the two main towers on each side of the river are made of a steel-silicon alloy which rise up from concrete piers. The towers rise 386 feet (118 m) above the river, and plunge 115 feet (35 m) below the surface of the Detroit River. The bridge is made up of 21,000 short tons (19,000 tonnes) of steel, and the roadway rises as high as 152 feet (46 m) above the Detroit River. Only the main span over the river is supported by suspension cables; the approaches to the main pillars are held up by steel in a cantilever truss structure.

The only bridge sidewalk on the south side used to allow pedestrians and bicycles, but security concerns after the September 11 attacks had it closed.[11] When the painting is being done on the south side of the bridge span, the sidewalk helps accommodate equipment and decrease the length of the lane that is cordoned off for painting.[12]

Granite blocks, originally used on the U.S. side, were given to the Windsor Parks & Recreation Department, and now grace many of the pathways in Windsor parks [13]


The four-lane bridge carries more than 10,000 commercial vehicles on a typical weekday. A major redesign of the U.S. plaza completed in July 2009 provides direct access to Interstate 96 and Interstate 75 on the American side and Highway 3 (and indirectly with Highway 401) on the Canadian side. The Canadian end of the bridge connects to busy city streets in downtown Windsor, leading to congestion.[14]

The lack of a second commercial crossing has led to concerns from customers, citing a lack of competition and dependency on a single company for a vital international border crossing.[6]

Second Span

The Detroit International Bridge Company, the owners and operators of the bridge, have proposed to spend one billion U.S. dollars to build a second span. The new span would be a cable stay bridge[15] and would accommodate the bulk of the cross-border traffic with the original span being used for overflow traffic.[16] However, it does not address Canadian concerns about increased traffic on Huron Church Road in Windsor.[17] The proposal has been stymied by a lack of support.[18]


The lack of competition from a second commercial crossing has led to criticism of the pricing structure.[19] Although the Canadian dollar now trades at about USD$1.03, the Ambassador Bridge toll rate for cars is $4.75 CAD and only $4 USD.[20]

Detroit River International Crossing

A second bridge crossing of the Detroit River to supplement the Ambassador Bridge has been proposed due to high expected growth in traffic. Manuel "Matty" Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, has spoken out against this proposal, and sued to prevent its construction.[21] Critics suggest that Moroun's opposition is fuelled by the prospect of lost profits from duty-free gasoline sales, which are exempt from about 60 cents per gallon in taxes even though the pump price to consumers is only a few cents lower.[7] The DRIC proposal conflicts with his own plans for a second span which would be built next to the Ambassador Bridge. Michigan and Canadian authorities continued to support the DRIC proposal, as it would directly connect the Canadian Highway 401 with Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Michigan, bypassing Windsor's surface streets and reducing congestion.


The bridge was featured in the films Hoffa, 8 Mile, Crossing the Bridge, Grosse Pointe Blank, Sicko and Bowling for Columbine. It can also be seen in the opening scenes of the film Four Brothers and in an episode of the series Biker Mice From Mars ("The Motor City Maniac", 1994). It is also featured in the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It is featured in Sam Roberts' music video for the song "Detroit '67". Perhaps most-recently, however, the Ambassador Bridge (and nearby Renaissance Center in Downtown Detroit) were prominently featured in the Life After People episode "The Road to Nowhere".[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ a b c Hatt, p. 4.
  2. ^ a b c Hatt, p. 7.
  3. ^ Fitch, Stephane; Muller, Joann (November 15, 2004). "The Troll Under the Bridge". Forbes. 
  4. ^ Detroit Regional Chamber (2006). "Detroit–Windsor Border Update: Part I-Detroit River International Crossing Study". Detroit Regional Chamber. 
  5. ^ Guyette, Curt (March 28, 2007). "Over the border: Legislator says proposed development authority would create jobs, boost economy". Metro Times. 
  6. ^ a b Henderson:, Stephen (May 5, 2011). "Just build it: The business case for a new bridge" (Editorial). Detroit Free Press. 
  7. ^ a b "Tax-free fuel sales are bonanza for Ambassador Bridge owners". Detroit Free Press. April 25, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2011. 
  8. ^ Mason, pp. 31+.
  9. ^ Mason, pp. 32–47.
  10. ^ Mason, p. 48.
  11. ^ "Ambassador Bridge". 
  12. ^ Freight Management and Operations. Ambassador Bridge Site Report (Report). U.S. Federal Highway Administration. 
  13. ^ "History of the Ambassador Bridge" (PDF). March 25, 2010.!Downloads/History.pdf. 
  14. ^ Detroit River International Crossing Study team (May 1, 2008). "Parkway Map" (PDF). URS Corporation. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  15. ^ Elgaaly, Hala. "Draft Finding of No Significant Impact for Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project" (PDF). U.S. Coast Guard.!Downloads/ABEP_Revised_Final.pdf. Retrieved February 10, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Second Span". Ambassador Bridge. Retrieved February 10, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Don't be fooled in fight over new bridge, Michigan will benefit most with new span to Canada" (Editorial). Lansing State Journal. April 5, 2011. 
  18. ^ "A second Detroit River crossing: Just build it" (Editorial). Detroit Free Press. April 12, 2011. 
  19. ^ Battagello, Dave (February 25, 2011). "Not-at-par toll rates at Windsor–Detroit border crossings unfair, MPs say". The Windsor Star. 
  20. ^ Puzic, Sonja (May 7, 2011). "Parkway work to start in August, MPP says". The Windsor Star. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Ambassador Bridge boss sues Canada, U.S.". Ottawa, Ontario: CBC News. March 26, 2010. Retrieved April 20, 2011. 
Works cited
  • Hatt, WK (1930). Detroit River Bridge. Pittsburgh: McClintic-Marshall Company. OCLC 43148098. 
  • Hyde, Charles K. (1993). Historic Highway Bridges of Michigan. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-2448-7. 
  • Mason, Philip P. (1987). Ambassador Bridge: A Monument to Progress. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1840-1. 

Further reading

External links

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