Rail freight traffic is expanding throughout North America, particularly to serve ocean ports. Assuring that transportation infrastructure capacity keeps up with demand is important for global trade competitiveness and national economic security.
A key growth area is in the Great Lakes Megaregion, where an industrial heartland route links Montreal, Toronto, Detroit/Windsor and Chicago. About 60% of Port of Montreal container traffic moves inland by rail, mostly to and from markets in Ontario and the U.S. Midwest - a corridor hampered by a bottleneck at the Detroit River, the world's busiest commercial border crossing. A century-old rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor handles more than 400,000 rail cars each year. The Port of Montreal is doubling container-handling capacity by 2020. The current tunnel can't handle 9' 6" double-stacked container rail cars or Auto-Max vehicle carriers, the most efficient rail shipping modes.
The Continental Rail Gateway (CRG), formed in June 2010, unites Canadian Pacific the Windsor Port Authority and the Borealis Infrastructure investment firm in a replacement rail tunnel venture. The public-private partnership owns the existing tunnel and rail corridor. Project funding calls for $200 million from the partners and $200 million from government sources in each country.
In addition to adding freight capacity and efficiency at a critical crossing between the world's two largest trade partners, replacing the 1909 rail freight tunnel can make the region more competitive as a logistics hub for intermodal trade. The project is expected to add momentum for other transportation infrastructure improvements, such as a planned Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal, a public-private partnership between Class 1 railroads and the State of Michigan.
"A larger replacement rail tunnel is critical to creating jobs and turning Windsor-Detroit into one of the most significant logistics hubs in the Midwest," explains David Cree, president and CEO of the Windsor Port Authority. "To be a transportation hub you need double-stack rail." The goal is shared by Wayne County (Detroit) Executive Robert Ficano, a CRG supporter who says: "We must make Detroit and Southeastern Michigan an essential transportation hub between the east coast of Canada and the U.S. Midwest."
The CRG replacement rail tunnel is intended to aid manufacturing and agriculture by removing a rail freight bottleneck between a key Atlantic port and the Great Lakes Megaregion. The U.S. environmental review is complete and the Canadian environmental approval is expected later this year. CRG executives meet regularly with transportation policymakers in Washington, Lansing, Ottawa and Toronto to discuss public sector investments.