International crossing toll system project wins international honors

SEATTLE, Washington – The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) honored the agencies in charge of two international bridge crossings on the Ontario-Michigan border for the procurement and implementation of their innovative toll systems. 

The IBTTA presented the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited (The FBCL) with their 2023 Tolling Excellence Award in the Administration and Finance category. The award was presented during the group’s annual meeting this week in Seattle.

In presenting the award, the IBTTA cited the successful bi-national partnership, improvements for customers, and greater efficiency for the operators as outstanding aspects of the tolling project.

The project is the first U.S.-Canada procurement of a toll collection system involving three independent international bridge operators with different ownership structures. The bi-national partnership leveraged a pre-existing agreement between MDOT and The FBCL at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge Administration (IBA). The Blue Water Bridge (BWB), the Seaway International Bridge Corporation (SIBC), and consultant WSP were the other participating organizations.

This agreement allowed the creation of a new Memorandum of Understanding connecting all the partners under one contract, issued and administered by the IBA. This project enabled the first technical interoperability across the U.S.-Canada border with customers able to attach multiple accounts in different currencies to a single bi-national sticker tag for ease of travel.

Customers establish an account and purchase a tag from one bridge operator and then may establish accounts with the other two bridge operators in one of the currencies permitted by the bridge operators’ business rules. The customer then links their tag with the partner agencies, all through a seamless customer interface. The system is scalable to add other similar toll entities in the future.

Under a $9.3 million contract, the previous toll systems at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge (connecting Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) and the Blue Water Bridge (connecting Port Huron, Michigan, to Point Edward, Ontario) have been modernized.

The contract is administered for the cross-border partnership by the IBA through an agreement between the IBA, MDOT and The FBCL. The new toll systems went online in the fall of 2022.

”Accepting the 2023 Toll Excellence Award from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association is a true honor for The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited and our esteemed partners, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the International Bridge Administration.” said Natalie Kinloch, chief executive officer of The FBCL. ”This accolade reflects our shared dedication to innovation and collaboration across borders, always with a keen focus on enhancing our service level. May our joint efforts continue to pave the way for a future of seamless, customer-centric travel between our connected nations.”

”This award is a tribute to our bi-national cross-border partnership,” said Amy Winn, Bridge Director at BWB (MDOT). ”Despite significant challenges and deadlines, we launched on time and on budget at all three locations.”

 Joe Dedecker, Bridge Director at BWB (The FBCL), concurred. ”This is another step as we continue to work together collaboratively,” he said.  ”For the next decade we will strive to make the border for our customers seamless and easier to cross.”

Peter Petainen, IBA Bridge Director, said the award was a recognition for the whole team. “It’s a testament to the perseverance and dedicated hard work of our entire multi-agency project team,” he said. ”I am humbled and grateful to IBTTA for the recognition this award represents.”

The contract costs of the new system are being shared equally by the IBA, MDOT and The FBCL, a Canadian Crown corporation wholly owned by the Government of Canada. Through its board, the International Bridge is managed as a joint venture of The FBCL and MDOT. The U.S. portion of the Blue Water Bridge is a State of Michigan entity.

The IBTTA is a worldwide association for owners and operators of toll facilities and businesses that serve them. Founded in 1932, IBTTA has members in 23 countries on six continents.

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