Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Windsor rail tunnel proposal moves closer to reality

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Windsor rail tunnel proposal moves closer to reality | Railway Track & Structures

The companies behind a C$400-million proposal to build a second Detroit River rail tunnel have issued a pre-bid notice - a call for companies to prove qualifications - to conduct the environmental assessment for the project, The Windsor Star reports. Borealis Infrastructure and Canadian Pacific Railway, co-owners of the 100-year-old Windsor-Detroit rail tunnel, plan to build an adjacent tunnel to accommodate larger double-stacked railway cars and possibly high-speed cross-border passenger service.

The notice moves the project another step closer to reality.

"This is very good news," said Coun. Bill Marra, one of city council's biggest supporters for the rail tunnel project. "The community might underestimate the significance around the pre-bid notice. But it indicates they have their financial requirements in a row and are looking at proceeding."

CP has relied on the existing tunnel for most of its freight needs, but also pays a user fee for the larger Sarnia-Port Huron rail tunnel owned by competitor CN Rail to transport its larger rail cars. That tunnel was constructed in the mid-1990s.

Plans to convert the old rail tunnel for truck traffic under the original plan died several years ago following strong community resistance in Windsor.

The notice appeared on the Windsor Construction Association's website and indicated final scope of work for the project will be released sometime early this year. Schedules for detailed design, tenders and construction remain undetermined pending completion and approval of the environmental assessment, according to the notice.

The EA for the project would take one or two years. Last fall, the Detroit chamber of commerce said it hoped construction could begin in about two years.

The proponents CP and Borealis are continuing to lobby various governments on both sides of the border for funding to support construction costs.

Marra described the environmental assessment notice "a good signal" for the community.

The impact of hundreds of construction jobs to build the tunnel will provide a short-term economic boost to the city, while spinoff jobs from the addition of an improved freight link across the Detroit River has the potential to significantly increase local investment over the long-term, he said.

Improving the movement of rail freight also improves the chances to remove more trucks off local streets.

"It's a win-win situation," he said. "Everyone on our side of the border really has to get behind this to ensure construction can begin as quickly as possible."

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