Ambassador Bridge to raise tolls

It’s about to get a little more costly to cross Matty Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge — which is already one of the most expensive toll crossings in the province.

As of Thursday, the privately-owned international bridge will be raising its rates. The toll for passenger vehicles will increase from $4.75 to $5.00 — whether U.S. or Canadian funds.

“It’s not unusual,” said Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Company, on Tuesday.

“When our finance people looked at it, and projected the cost of maintaining the bridge, they found it necessary to recommend this be done, and the board approved.”

Once the new rate goes into effect, the only Canada-U.S. crossing in Ontario with a higher toll for passenger vehicles will be the privately-owned Fort Frances-International Falls bridge, which charges $6 for Canada-bound travelers.

Asked why the Ambassador Bridge charges more than so many other crossings, Stamper said: “The reason is no one else does the kind of work that we do.”

“Nobody else has had 24-hour security under the bridge since 9/11. Nobody else is doing the kind of rehab that we’re doing on the bridge while maintaining traffic without delays.”

It’s the second consecutive year that the Ambassador Bridge’s tolls have gone up. In July 2012, the U.S. rate jumped from $4.00 to $4.75.

Stamper said last year’s change was due to the increased value of the Canadian dollar. “We did not raise the tolls,” he insisted. “We adjusted the currency exchange rate.”

But Windsor West MP Brian Masse took the opportunity on Tuesday to write to federal transport minister Lisa Raitt, urging her “to investigate whether a toll increase is warranted at this time.”

“I’ve received tremendous feedback from my community regarding the question of border tolls,” Masse wrote.

According to Masse, there’s a “general belief” that higher tolls at the Ambassdor Bridge are “nothing more than basic gouging.”

He denounced the bridge’s rates for being “roughly 30 per cent higher than other comparable crossings across the province.”

Told of Masse’s letter, Stamper said: “If somebody’s getting gouged, they’re getting gouged by the government and the taxes in Canada. Not by toll operators who are doing the things they have to do.”

But Detroit-Windsor Tunnel president Neal Belitsky let it be known that the Ambassador Bridge raising its tolls means the tunnel’s rates are now “the lowest between Windsor and Detroit.”

Cash tolls at the tunnel will remain $4.50 from Canada to the U.S. and $4.75 from the U.S. to Canada.

Belitsky also pointed out that electronic tolling and plaza improvements on both sides of the tunnel “have reduced crossing times to under 10 minutes.”

In a statement to the press, he promised that new express lanes and mobile tolling features will be unveiled on both plazas by September.

And what do the people behind the coming New International Trade Crossing have to say about tolls? Representatives of Transport Canada and the Michigan Department of Transportation didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But the State of Michigan’s Build the Bridge Facebook page pointed out that the Ambassador Bridge’s new rates represent a 20 per cent increase.

Originally of The Windsor Star