Closure of truck ferry threatens major construction projects and just-in-time delivery

Unless the operator of the Windsor-Detroit Truck Ferry is able to receive $160,000 a month in government funding, the service will shut down within six months.

The ferry’s charter agreement to lease marine equipment expired at the end of March, but President Greg Ward said he was granted a short six-month extension to continue operations.

Ward is now raising the red flag that the government grant, $80,000 on both sides of the border, will go through.

The truck ferry has been in operation since 1990 and is the only legal hazmat crossing in the region. The next closest border point is the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia.

Trucks carrying materials necessary for the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, electric vehicle battery plants and the auto industry often use the ferries.

“You build electric car factories because you want to be environmentally conscious. On the other hand, you’re saying it’s okay for all these hazmat trucks to detour over Chatham and Fort Wallace on the way to the blue water bridge, adding miles, Wear and emissions — it’s counterintuitive,” Ward said.

And it can be dangerous.

Ferries also act as redundancy at the border.

“You would think, as an insurance policy, that you would want to be able to use the truck ferries until Gordie Howe was built,” he added.

The ferries carry the equivalent of 40 to 50 trucks across the Detroit River each month. Ward acknowledged it was not at maximum capacity and suspected some trucks were using the Ambassador Bridge illegally. If he can’t keep the ferries running, he suspects all drivers will choose to drive hours to legal hazmat crossings.

“It’s going to be kind of crap for the next two years, and hopefully nothing will happen to your 94-year-old bridge over the border by then,” he warned. “It’s not a legal intersection for hazardous materials, and extra-wide trucks won’t fit.”

The ferry employs six people on the Windsor side of the river and another four in Detroit.

So far, Ward said he has not heard from any administration officials.

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