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Shortline rail investment to provide big boost to cross-border trade

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The border crossing between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan is one of the busiest and most important in the world’s most successful trading relationship. Daily, two-way traffic between Canada and the U.S. at that single crossing totals $360 million USD per day. Our two countries’ integrated economies and shared prosperity depend on trade flowing smoothly and efficiently.

In late May, RAC member Essex Terminal Railway (ETR) got word that it would be playing an even bigger role in the next act of the region’s economic development.

Canada’s federal transport minister Omar Alghabra announced $12.5 million in new funding for ETR to support its Cargo Terminal Infrastructure Expansion project at the Port of Windsor. Both ETR/Morterm and the Windsor Port Authority (“WPA”) contributed the remainder of the monies required for the project – the submission to Transport Canada was delivered as a partnership between ETR/Morterm and the WPA.

The funding comes from the National Trade Corridors Fund, which supports improvements to Canada’s roads, rail, air, and marine shipping routes to foster domestic and international trade.

“By supporting this project, we contribute to Canada’s economic progress, improve the environment and make life more affordable for Canadians,” said Minister Alghabra on the ETR’s project.

The funding will support the build-out of a multi-modal hub by Morterm Limited, ETR’s sister company.

ETR connects with CPKC, CN, and CSX at Morterm’s Windsor hub and both the government and the company say this investment will help move more freight throughout Canada, the U.S., and Mexico more safely, efficiently, and sustainably.

“One of the primary focuses of the funding is for utilization of our existing rail infrastructure at Morterm,” said Tony De Thomasis, ETR’s President and CEO. “This will take trucks off the road, which is safer for everyone and will help the environment.”

De Thomasis says the company is starting to work right away on a new trainload warehouse, which will allow Morterm to move more commodities from truck to rail from the U.S. and Mexico into Canada and vice versa.

“The benefits of the investment will go a long way in helping our local industry, which is manufacturing, by providing them another means of reaching U.S. markets other than by truck,” De Thomasis said.

Shortlines are often vital to regional economies. But given the importance of the Windsor-Detroit hub – the impacts of smoother, more efficient trade will be felt more widely.

One unit-train can remove upwards of 300 trucks off the roads, reducing strain on public infrastructure and GHG emissions.

Moving more trade from trucks to trains is not only good for the environment, but for safety as well. Road accidents involving dangerous goods were 17 times more frequent than rail in the decade between 2009 and 2018.

As ETR delivers the expansion project on the last remaining industrial port land in Windsor-Essex, it will also seek to better leverage its expertise in handling cargo and steel commodities for the long-term.

“We’re very thankful for the funding and we’re looking forward to the redevelopment of Morterm Limited and building capacity within Port Windsor,” said De Thomasis.

Indeed, this project will help the shortline make outsized contributions to the flow of trade through Windsor with ETR’s importance to supply chains becoming even greater than before, and positive impacts stretching far and wide.