By region, Canadians do the most business within the Great Lakes region by nearly four times over the Midwest region.
The Automotive Industry in Canada
With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the automotive industry found Canada and Ontario in particular a welcome place to do business. Recently, automotive jobs in Ontario are on the increase while in Michigan they are on the decline. Last year, Ontario built more cars and trucks than any other location in North America.
Detroit/Windsor Rail Corridor Is Vital to the National Transportation Network
The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership (DRTP) owns and operates the 100-year-old rail corridor that runs from Highway 401 in Canada to I-75 in Detroit. All the land within the corridor is owned by the DRTP. The tunnel serves CPR and any other railroad operators that wish to use the tracks, making this a “neutral tunnel.” The Detroit rail crossing run by the DRTP is an ongoing business and carries over 450,000 rail cars a year. This is equivalent to over 1,000,000 truckloads.
The DRTP/CPR corridor is an existing, 100-year-old transportation corridor through Windsor and Detroit. Much of this corridor is surrounded by vacant or industrial land.
Keeping Viable Rail Service in Detroit
This tunnel is challenged by its age. Next-generation rail cars are being put into service by the railroad industry now and will continue over the next several years. These taller rail cars are bigger than the inside diameter of the existing tunnel. In 1906 when this tunnel was built, no one could have imagined a rail car 21 feet, 10 inches tall!
Below is a recent article regarding American Honda Motor Company’s purchase of $100 million worth of the new, taller rail cars. These new cars will not fit through the existing Detroit/Windsor rail tunnel.
Honda is shipping cars by new Auto-Max railcars
The Greenbrier Companies announced today it has
received the largest order ever for its Auto-Max railcar
used for transporting new automotive vehicles. The $100
million order is from American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
The extra-wide decks in Auto-Max railcars can be adjusted to adapt to changing consumer patterns. In addition to carrying passenger vehicles three high, Auto-Max is the only railcar that carries most sport utilities, cross-over vehicles, compact pickups, and minivans in a tri-level (three-high) configuration. The decks are also readily convertible to carry large SUVs and large pickup trucks in a two-high configuration due to Auto-Max’s patented features.
[Posted Feb 14, 2006 at Inside Line, an Edmunds.com, Inc. blog]
As discussed previously, the next-generation, high-capacity rail cars and double-stacked seatainers will not fit through the existing tunnel. A new, larger tunnel must be built. The new, larger tunnel will be built next to the existing tunnels.
How the New DRTP Rail Tunnel Will Be Built
The new DRTP rail tunnel will have an inside diameter of nearly 27 feet to accommodate the next-generation rail cars and double-stacked seatainers. The tunnelling will be through the soft clay layer, using a pressure-balanced, tunnel boring machine (TBM) shown in the middle left.
This unique machine is huge and is used to bore through the clay layer while building the tunnel behind it. Equalized pressure is maintained at the cutting head to prevent problems with the clay layers above the machine. Once the pre-cast, concrete tunnel segments are laid in place by the machine, the entire geological structure is stabilized. The tunnel is completed when the TBM breaks through on the opposite side from where it started tunnelling.
The DRTP Jobs Tunnel will be 1.6 miles long and can be completed in less than four years after the environmental assessment (EA) is completed and government permits are granted.
The new rail tunnel will be completed in five phases:
1. Environmental Assessment Phase
2. Engineering Design Phase
3. Funding Commitment Phase
4. Tunnel Construction Phase
i. Tunnel Boring Machine Commitment
ii. Tunnel Liner Commitment
5. Commissioning Phase
The New Detroit Windsor Jobs Tunnel Security
Security is an important part of CPR’s daily business. This is especially true in the Detroit/Windsor corridor.
CPR operates its own police force on both sides of the border to ensure security.
Also, all rail cars are run past a VACIS (Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System) device to Gama-Ray all rail cars before entering the United States. The government-monitored system, using trackside towers (such as the one shown at right) can detect stowaways, contraband, and explosive devices by generating an interior image of each railcar and its contents whether they be tank car, hopper car, container or boxcar, as it rolls by at 5-7 miles per hour.
Moreover, the new rail tunnel will have the most sophisticated sensor array of any tunnel on the North American border.
With all these security measures, this border crossing is safe.
It is clear that the CPR track system is a key element in delivering the products needed to keep millions of Americans working in the Midwest. And, it is also clear that this system is jeopardized by the restrictions of a 100-year-old tunnel in Detroit that is not adequate for the next-generation rail cars coming on line.