- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2005

DETROIT — A new border crossing between the United States and Canada is planned to be in place by 2013, with plans coming while border security is a major issue on the political landscape.

The crossing, deemed as necessary to accommodate trade, will have stations in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, with the plaza on the U.S. side having close access to a major highway, unlike the two existing main crossings, the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

“We have been working closely with the border-security people, which is the biggest objective as far as security,” said Mohammed Alghurabi, a senior project manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

U.S. security officials want to make sure the crossing is not near anything that could be a target, such as industrial sites with flammable materials.

“We have a lot of issues on that, which we are still working on,” Mr. Alghurabi said.

A decision is expected to take some time as the affected parties weigh in, and project proponents are looking to settle all matters by 2007.

Truck traffic at the Detroit-Windsor border will double in the next 30 years, which, studies by the U.S. and Canadian governments say, necessitates at least one more border crossing.

In 2001, about $300 million per weekday, or 23 percent of the surface trade between Canada and the United States, was trucked across the border between Detroit and Windsor.

An average of 10,000 trucks per day now cross the Ambassador Bridge, and another 1,400 trucks daily pass through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

The two countries have different immigration policies as well as security procedures, but both sides have bolstered their presence since September 11.

“We have worked incredibly well with the U.S. [border officials] on sharing information and any possible threats,” said Mark Butler, a spokesman for Transport Canada, one of several Canadian government agencies involved with the planning for the new crossing.

Security consultants from Canada are working with U.S. border officials to determine any specific needs, Mr. Butler added.

When the plan has a specific location, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will weigh in, said Ronald Smith, a spokesman for the agency in Detroit.

Mr. Smith, a former supervisor at the cargo facility, said border agencies long have endured short staffing.

“I never had enough people, but we make it work,” he said. “For the continuity of operations of our core job, we always make sure we have enough people to accomplish our primary mission.”

But still, he maintained, the northern U.S. border, dubbed “the world’s longest undefended border,” is as secure as it can be.

“If we were to shut down, to check every single vehicle coming in, trade on both sides of the border would suffer,” Mr. Smith said. “We have to be right 100 percent of the time, and the terrorist has to be right only once. But our people are out there, and it won’t happen on our watch.”

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