Proposal to permit hazardous materials crossing Ambassador Bridge draws criticism

Bridge says it’s ‘fully equipped’ to handle hazardous materials

Windsor politicians are raising concerns about a proposal that would see trucks use the Ambassador Bridge, a pivotal link in Canada-U.S. trade, to transport flammable liquids and corrosive materials.

MP Brian Masse (NDP/Windsor West) says he strongly opposes allowing flammable liquids and corrosive substances to be transported by truck across the bridge due to safety concerns. 

Masse says that such a move could jeopardize trade by shutting down the bridge and pose environmental risks, with chemicals potentially contaminating the river. 

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge wants to see the bridge crossing permit primarily gas and diesel, categorized as hazardous flammable liquids (Class 3 substances). Additionally, the would like to see permitted corrosive substances falling under Class 8 — encompassing items crucial for battery production, fertilizers, detergents, and pharmaceuticals. 

In a statement, the Ambassador Bridge company says the bridge is “fully equipped” to handle these materials, and the change will “dramatically improve safety in the state of Michigan and enhance the smooth flow of international commerce in the Detroit-Windsor corridor.”

The company says trucks will be escorted by safety vehicles and the bridge says its equipped with the proper fire suppression systems.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is currently seeking input regarding this proposed change.

“It’s disturbing. There is a reason why there’s restrictions and there was no reason to shut the truck ferry down,” said Masse.

The truck ferry was an approved way for hazardous goods on trucks to cross the border but it shut down earlier this fall for financial reasons. 

Masse said he called on Ottawa to support the ferry until the Gordie Howe International Bridge opens in 2025, as it will allow hazardous materials. 

“Environmentally we put ourselves at a greater risk, and the bridge itself is not, you know, built to deal with the spilling of liquids,” said Masse. 

Windsor Coun. Fabio Costante of Ward 2 also agrees and says there are other more appropriate crossings where hazardous materials could flow through, like the Bluewater Bridge in Point Edward, Ont., and soon the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

“For them to go through the Ambassador Bridge, where you have a very high density of residents, I think it’s a degree of risk that we shouldn’t be accepting,” said Costante.

MDOT has begun a public consultation process that will wrap up on Dec. 23. Canadians are invited to voice their concerns, and Masse says he will be making a submission.