It’s just a toll booth on a bridge — but it symbolizes the challenges to Canadians of living next-door to an increasingly dysfunctional American political system.
The Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River is the busiest Canada-U.S. border crossing. It’s been improved and modernized over the years, but shippers fear that the bridge’s capacity will soon be overwhelmed. Proposals to add a second span have gone nowhere. And anyway, a second span would be a poor solution: The bridge, built in 1929, is in the wrong place. It disgorges into Windsor city streets.
Shippers have long urged the construction of an entirely new border crossing that could connect U.S. Interstates 75 and 94 directly to Ontario’s Highway 401. On the eve of the 2008 financial crisis, those shippers finally got their way: The new crossing gained approval from the Michigan and Ontario highway departments.
The recession that began in 2007 temporarily depressed cross-border traffic. Yet it also added to the logic of a new crossing. With unemployment soaring in the Detroit-Windsor region, a big new bridge-highway project would deliver a welcome jolt to the local economy.
Plans for the new crossing failed, however, to reckon with two characteristics of the increasingly dysfunctional U.S. political system: Its extreme and intensifying tax aversion — and its vulnerability to manipulation by wealthy entrenched interest groups.