Detroit–Windsor Tunnel

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This article is about the highway tunnel. For the railroad tunnel, see Michigan Central Railway Tunnel.
Detroit–Windsor tunnel
Location Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario
Route Connecting Jefferson Avenue (near I-375 and M-10) & Former Highway 3B
Opened 1930; 85 years ago (1930)
Operator Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Company, LLC (jointly owned by City Councils of Detroit and Windsor)
Traffic 13,000 vehicles

USD 4.50/CAD 4.50 (autos travelling into US)

USD 4.75/CAD 4.75 (autos travelling into Canada)
Length 1,570 metres (5,150 ft)
Number of lanes 2
Tunnel clearance 4 metres (13 ft)
Width 6.7 metres (22 ft)

The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel (French: Tunnel Detroit-Windsor) is an underground highway tunnel connecting Detroit, Michigan in the United States, with Windsor, Ontario in Canada. It was completed in 1930.

It is the second busiest crossing between the United States and Canada after the nearby Ambassador Bridge. About 13,000 vehicles (cars, vans, buses) use the tunnel each day.[1] The structure is jointly owned by the two cities. A 2004 Border Transportation Partnership study showed that 150,000 jobs in the region and $13 billion (U.S.) in annual production depend on the Windsor-Detroit international border crossing.[2]

When constructed, it was only the third underground vehicular tunnel constructed in the United States (after the Holland Tunnel between Jersey City, New Jersey, and downtown Manhattan, New York City, New York and the Posey Tube between Oakland and Alameda, California).

Its creation followed the opening of cross-border rail freight tunnels including the St. Clair Tunnel between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario in 1891 and the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel between Detroit and Windsor in 1910.

The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel is 120 feet (37 m) short of a mile at 5,160 feet (1,573 m). At its lowest point, the two-lane roadway is 75 feet (23 m) below the river surface.

The cities of Detroit and Windsor hold the distinction of jointly creating both the second and third underground tunnels between two nations in the world. The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel is the world’s third underground tunnel between two nations, and the first international underground vehicle tunnel. The Michigan Central Railway Tunnel, also under the Detroit River, was the second tunnel between two nations. The St. Clair Tunnel, between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario under the St. Clair River, was the first.

The tunnel is owned by Detroit–Windsor Tunnel LLC, which is a joint-venture between the City of Windsor and the City of Detroit, with each owning 50%. In the 2000s Detroit considered selling its half of the tunnel to Windsor to form a tunnel authority until a scandal involving then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick derailed that plan.[3]

Following Detroit's July 2013 bankruptcy filing, Windsor, Ontario Mayor Eddie Francis has said that his city would consider purchasing Detroit's half of the tunnel if it is offered for sale.[4]

On July 25, 2013, the lessor, manager and operator of the tunnel, Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC, and its parent company, American Roads, LLC, voluntarily filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.[5]


Location of the three river crossings between Detroit and Windsor. The image shows the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel (pale yellow, right), the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel (dotted, center) and the Ambassador Bridge (green, left). Detroit is on the north bank of this stretch of river. To go from Detroit in the United States to Windsor in Canada, people passing through the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel travel south.

The Detroit–Windsor Tunnel was built by the firm Parsons, Klapp, Brinckerhoff and Douglas (the same firm that built the Holland Tunnel).[6] The executive engineer was Burnside A. Value, the engineer of design was Norwegian-American engineer Søren Anton Thoresen, while fellow Norwegian-American Ole Singstad consulted, and designed the ventilation.[7][8]

The construction method is immersed tube (sections of steel tube floated into place and sunk into a trench dug in the river bottom), as in the earlier Posey Tube. The tunnel sections have three main levels. The bottom level brings in fresh air under pressure, which is forced into the mid level, where the traffic lanes are located, and the third level is where the engine exhaust is forced into and vented at each end of the tunnel. Total cost was approximately $25 million US dollars.[9]

The river section of the tunnel was connected to bored tunnels on both banks. The tubes were then covered over in the trench by 4 to 20 feet (1.2 to 6.1 m) of mud. Because the tunnel essentially sits on the river bottom, there is a wide no-anchor zone enforced on river traffic.

Tunnel truck for disabled vehicles[edit]

When the tunnel first opened in 1930s the operators had a unique rescue vehicle to tow out disabled vehicles without having to back in or turn around to perform this role. The vehicle had two drivers, one facing in the opposite direction of the other. The vehicle was driven in, the disabled vehicle was hooked up, then the driver facing the other way drove it out. This emergency vehicle also had 600 feet (180 m) of water hose with power drive and chemical fire extinguishers.[10]

Traffic and tolls[edit]

Vehicles pay a fee to pass the tunnel, except for motorcycles which are prohibited. A municipal bus company uses the tunnel.[11] In 2012, about 6,650 vehicles traveled the tunnel daily, 98% of them cars.[5]

CKLW, WJR and the tunnel[edit]

In the late 1960s, Windsor radio station CKLW AM 800 engineered a wiring setup which has allowed the station's signal to be heard clearly by automobiles traveling through the tunnel. Currently Detroit radio station WJR AM 760 can be heard clearly in the tunnel.

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°19′28.21″N 83°2′24.19″W / 42.3245028°N 83.0400528°W / 42.3245028; -83.0400528