by Crain's Detroit Business

Travelers coming into Detroit through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel next year will be able to use electronic toll cards to more quickly get over the border.

The tunnel plaza on the Detroit side will also be expanded next year to include an 11th inspection lane, and all incoming lanes will be upgraded by the end of November to add all current and some pending electronic identification technology.The $3.8 million project was announced Monday morning at a press conference by Neal Belitsky, CEO and general manager of Detroit Windsor Tunnel L.L.C.
“The goal is to provide accelerated service,” he said, with the target being a 20 percent boost in capacity and a reduction in wait times.

No date was announced for the toll cards to go on sale, but Belitsky said it will be in the spring.

The electronic cards are initially for entering the U.S. side of the border, Belitsky said. Plans remain under discussion with Canadian authorities to implement the service in Windsor.

Electronic devices will instantly deduct the cost of crossing prior to entering the tunnel, and can be ordered and recharged online.

Some lanes will require the cards 24 hours a day, he said.Currently, the tunnel has two lanes for Nexus card holders, but that will be expanded to all lanes this year.

Additionally, all lanes will be able to process the forthcoming improved passports and drivers licenses that will include electronic identification capabilities, Belitsky said.

The new toll cards, which will be usable only at the tunnel, will have some sort of rewards program for frequent travelers, but details on the incentives are being worked out.

The tunnel will continue to accept cash, credit cards and tokens, Belitsky said.Tokens eventually will be phased out, with sales ending at some point, but no date has been set for their elimination at the tunnel, Belitsky said.About 6 million vehicles use the tunnel annually now, Belitsky said, down from about 9 million prior to 2001. During 3 p.m.-7 p.m. rush hour, about 1,000 vehicles an hour use the tunnel.

The tunnel company will launch what it calls a “major marketing campaign” about six months before the cards go live, he said. That includes a push at area hospitals for nurses to use the cards because a large number of nurses in the region cross the border.

The plaza expansion will include infrastructure improvements, a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection office, renovated roadway and implementation of dual-service booths.


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