PORT HURON, Mich. -- A downturn in auto parts and other manufacturing sectors has led to nearly a 10 percent truck traffic decline on the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia, Ont. and Port Huron, Mich.
According to the Port Huron Times Herald, the number of trucks crossing the bridge fell 8.61 percent in 2006 from the year before -- down an average of 4,484 trucks per day.
Statistics compiled by the Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association show the drop-off was steep later in the year, with crossings down nearly 20 percent in September, 15 percent in October, 12 percent in November and 11 percent in December, sates the Herald.
While a series of cutbacks and plant closures in the corridor played a heavy role, generally weaker pre-holiday freight tonnage in both Canada and the U.S. helps explain the quick rate of decline in the latter half of '06.
After the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor-Detroit, the Blue Water is the second-busiest crossing between Ontario and Michigan. Commercial trucks represent about a third of the vehicles that cross there.
The Blue Water Bridge Authority recently launched a $100 million expansion of the Canadian customs plaza. A new truck ramp is expected to be open by June, while an overpass will let commercial trucks clear customs and move directly onto Hwy. 402.
Last summer, the Blue Water Bridge authority backed a "Hybrid Alternative" redevelopment plan floated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
It's been generally recognized for years that the existing American Plaza port of entry is inadequate for processing current (and projected) volumes of traffic. The problem, according to the bridge authority, is that the design of the existing plaza restricts traffic westbound into the U.S. from the Canadian Hwy. 402 to one lane.
-- with files from the Port Huron Times Herald