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Ownership pondered amid upgrades at Blue Water Bridge

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Troy Shantz

The corporation that manages the Blue Water Bridge says it would “entertain dialog” if Michigan does decide to sell its half of the bridge.

Detroit Free Press reported recently the state is pondering the sale of various public assets, including the international span linking Sarnia and Port Huron.

Selling the bridge for up to $800 million could help fix Michigan’s roads and provide an alternative to a proposed 45-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase, at least one state representative has said.

The communication’s director of Canada’s Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. said it’s only talk at this point, but noted there are merits to solely running the nation’s second-busiest border crossing.

“It would obviously be simpler to manage this as one entity rather than two. But honestly, I don’t think it will come to that point,” said Todd Kealey.

“My suspicion right now is it’s just a point of dialog. Whether it comes to fruition or not is still hard to tell.”

Kealey said the Blue Water Bridge runs like a “well-oiled machine” with ongoing cooperation between both operators and customs.

The Corporation manages Canadian interests in four international crossings, including bridges in Sault St. Marie, Cornwall and Thousand Islands,

Each has its own unique management arrangement with their U.S. counterparts, Kealey said.

Locally, the Corporation oversees tolls and maintenance on this side while the Michigan Department of Transportation runs the U.S. half of the 80-year-old bridge.

Meanwhile, the Corporation has recently invested just over $8 million in the Point Edward toll plaza.

A new emergency return road will be completed this summer, allowing vehicles denied entry to Canada to turn around within the controlled area, Kealey explained during a media tour last week.

Until now, rejected vehicles required a border officer escort through Point Edward before returning to the U.S.

A 10,000-square-foot administration building has been levelled on the south side of the property to make room for future amenities. They will include a rest area, electric vehicle charge station, and possibly a fast food restaurant, Kealey said.

A second station capable of charging electric vehicles in 20 minutes is planned for the Duty Free parking lot, he added.

Meanwhile, motorists have embraced a new ConneXion automatic toll program, Kealey said. The program launched last fall with 80 participants and today has 5,000 users.
Commuters with a windshield-mounted RFID tag are billed automatically as they cross the bridge. It’s $60 to get started and users receive a 25-cent per axel discount.

Second only to Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge in terms of commercial traffic, the Blue Water Bridge accommodates about 5,000 vehicles a day and enables $42 billion annually in trade.

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