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Detroit Windsor Tunnel will undergo renovations later this year

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Lunch across the river. A weekend in Windsor or a night out in Canada. Southeast Michigan makes good use of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, so obviously we want that tunnel in great shape.

After years of faithful service to the citizens of two countries the tunnel will have the ceiling removed and replaced, along with the electrical, lighting, masonry and communications work later this year. The project is funded by the Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC and the Windsor Detroit Tunnel Corporation. The actual work will be done by Parsons Brinckerhoff Engineering, the same company that designed and built the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel more than 85 years ago.

While certainly an inconvenience, the fix-ups are certainly for needed and come on the heels of the Windsor plaza renovations completed by the Province of Ontario in 2015.

Beyond a means to get from one city to another, the tunnel has important historical significance. Built in 1930, it is the only underwater-tunnel for automobiles that crosses International borders in the entire world. About 12,000 vehicles drive through the tunnel daily and about nine million go through each year … 95% are cars and 5% are trucks. To keep it comfortable and safe 1.5 million cubic feet of fresh air is pumped into the tunnel each minute.

As you drive the approximate mile length of the tunnel, you are 75 feet below the Detroit River. Your drive is made possible by 574 lights, 80,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 750 tons of reinforced steel.

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“The City of Windsor is committed to investing in our infrastructure assets, and we are especially pleased to be part of the continuing enhancements and renovations at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel,” says Drew Dilkens, Windsor mayor and chairman or the Windsor Detroit Tunnel Corporation. “The tunnel is truly one of the crown jewels of southern Ontario and is one of the showpieces of our great City. For many visitors, it is a reflection of the city itself, and of our importance as a border city and an international gateway. These newly announced renovations, on top of the recent revitalization of the tunnel plaza, will only serve to further enhance that reputation.”

The renovation project is a continuation of the more than $50 million in investments made in the tunnel since 1998 to continue maintaining and improving this great asset, says Neal Belitsky, president, Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

The Detroit Windsor Tunnel will work with local media, tourism and business associations, government entities, and through direct communications to commuters to make sure they are informed of any construction updates. Real-time updates and traffic information will be available online at www.dwtunnel.com, and on Twitter @DetWinTunnel. The Detroit Windsor Tunnel Mobile App is available on IOS or Android devices.

If you are interested in the history of the tunnel check out The Fleetway online exhibit at the Windsor Public Library. You’ll find videos and images that give terrific details of the project. You can also go to the history page on the Detroit Windsor Tunnel site.

There you’ll find out the Detroit Windsor Tunnel was not the first attempt to link the two countries. Back in 1871, ground was broken near the foot of St. Antoine Street for a tunnel under the Detroit River. That ended when workers hit a pocket of sumptuous gas when they were 135 feet out under the river. The project was abandoned.

Detroit’s second tunnel venture was in 1878. The idea was to have a tube that connected Grosse Ile with Canada. No gas was encountered, but limestone formations made the cost of excavation too expensive.

Two railway tunnels followed. The Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel under the St. Clair River at Port Huron opened in 1891.The Michigan Central Railway Tunnel in Detroit opened in 1910.

Advocates of a vehicle tunnel still pushed on. In 1919, Windsor’s Mayor Edward Blake Winter asked requested Ottawa to construct a tunnel as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I. He told them a tunnel between England and France had been proposed as a war memorial, and “if England and France could be united by a tunnel, so should Canada and the United States.”

That didn’t go anywhere but Windsor Salvation Army Captain, Fred W. Martin, pursued the dream. Finally, in 1926, a group of Detroit bankers agreed to back the project. Construction took 26 months and cost $23 million. The Detroit Windsor Tunnel opened o traffic on November 3, 1930.

There you’ll find out the Detroit Windsor Tunnel was not the first attempt to link the two countries. Back in 1871, ground was broken near the foot of St. Antoine Street for a tunnel under the Detroit River. That ended when workers hit a pocket of sumptuous gas when they were 135 feet out under the river. The project was abandoned.

Detroit’s second tunnel venture was in1878. The idea was to have a tube that connected Grosse Ile with the Canada. No gas was encountered, but limestone formations made the cost of excavation too expensive.

Two railway tunnels followed. The Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel under the St. Clair River at Port Huron opened in 1891.The Michigan Central Railway Tunnel in Detroit opened in 1910.

Advocates of a tunnel still pushed on. In 1919, Windsor’s Mayor Edward Blake Winter asked requested Ottawa to construct a tunnel as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I. He told them a tunnel between England and France had been proposed as a war memorial, and “if England and France could be united by a tunnel, so should Canada and the United States.”

That didn’t go anywhere but a Windsor Salvation Army Captain, Fred W. Martin, pursued the dream. Finally, in 1926, Parsons Brinckerhoff Engineering said the tunnel would not only be feasible but profitable, and Martin found enough backing. A group of Detroit bankers agreed to back the project. Construction took 26 months and cost $23 million. The Detroit Windsor Tunnel opened to traffic on November 3, 1930.

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3 comments on “Detroit Windsor Tunnel will undergo renovations later this year

  1. Great information to know for future travelers to and from Canada. The tunnel is old, and needs to be repaired after all the wear and tear over the years. The only suggestions I have is to add when exactly the construction starts, and when it's supposed to be finished so people can plan accordingly. Also, are there any plans to repair the Ambassador Bridge in the future? Expecting double the traffic during the tunnel repair, it sounds like there could be plans to make repairs to the bridge after the tunnel is done.

    • Thank you. The renovations start later this year. We will let you know the exact timing when it is announced.Sent from my iPhone

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