First look at Detroit-Windsor Tunnel renovations

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Renovations for the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel are on track for a reopening at 5:30 a.m. Monday, officials said Thursday, as media got a peek at what’s been going on deep within the underwater international tunnel.

As you drive through the tunnel, above the ceiling is this exhaust tunnel, where fumes from vehicles are routed.

It has been closed since Oct. 20 for work on the final phase of a $21.6 million renovation project. .

“So far, the work is on schedule,” said Neal Belitsky, president of Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

Belitsky’s remarks came Thursday during a briefing that gave Metro Detroit and Windsor-area media a look at the construction work on the nearly mile-long 86-year-old Detroit-Windsor link under the Detroit River.

Crews have begun renovations to the 86-year-old tunnel linking Detroit to Windsor.

Company officials and journalists were shuttled to a location about 400 feet into the tunnel and at the perimeter of the construction work.

He said crews are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to replace 2,200 lineal feet, 48,000 square feet, of concrete and steel. This last phase of the project costs about $16 million, he said.

“There are just not a lot of tunnels in the United States and this is still the world’s only subaqueous international vehicular tunnel,” Belitsky said.

Workers are replacing the concrete ceiling and making other improvements. It’s the first time in the tunnel’s history the ceiling has been replaced, Belitsky said.

Workers will replace the tunnel’s concrete ceiling and make other improvements to the infrastructure.

The complex nature of the work forced authorities to close the tunnel to traffic, leaving motorists to and from Detroit and Windsor to use the Ambassador Bridge.

“It’s not by accident that we closed the tunnel,” Belitsky said. “It’s very tight quarters. There’s a lot of concrete work overhead, so we’re doing everything to make sure that this is as safe as humanly possible.”

Starting Monday, the tunnel will close for construction between 8 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and occasionally on weekends until June 2018.

The tunnel operator preferred to be proactive, officials said, and replace the ceiling. The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel performs maintenance on the ceiling almost yearly, and independent civil engineers inspect the tunnel every year, Belitsky said.

Construction equipment sits inside the Detroit Windsor Tunnel Thursday as i work on the final phase of a $21.6 million renovation project.

“But no matter how much maintenance you do, at some point you have to replace concrete,” said Trevor Pearce, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel vice president of engineering and operations.

The tunnel’s operator and its counterpart over the border, the Windsor Detroit Tunnel Corp., are paying for the renovations, which are being done by Michigan-based Toebe Construction Co. The funding comes from tunnel tolls, officials said. It costs drivers from the Detroit side $5 per vehicle to travel through the tunnel. Drivers pay $4.50 to go from Windsor to Detroit.

Belitsky said the project will not result in toll increases.

Under the project, workers will replace the tunnel’s concrete ceiling and make other improvements to the infrastructure.

Tunnel facts:

■The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is owned by Detroit-based American Roads LLC, a privately held company that owns and operates toll roads in the U.S. and Canada.

■American Roads operates the Detroit-Windsor tunnel under a lease with the city of Detroit. The lease expires in 2040.

■The last time the tunnel completely closed for construction was 1993, when the road was replaced.

■The tunnel, which opened on Nov. 3, 1930, is nearly a mile long and about half of it is 75 feet below the river.

■About 4 million vehicles, most of them passenger cars, use the tunnel every year, Belitsky said.

■Most users are commuters working in the medical industry, he said.