Detroit is our nation’s busiest land border gateway by value for imports and exports transported across the border by highways, railroads, and pipelines. And its land ports are our third leading gateway when compared with all U.S. freight gateways—land, air, and sea.
In 2003, merchandise trade passing through Detroit ($102 billion) accounted for 18 percent of the value of U.S. total land trade. These freight shipments accounted for more than one-fifth (23 percent) of all U.S. land exports and 15 percent of land imports. Detroit is a major gateway for both exports and imports, with outbound shipments accounting for 54 percent and inbound shipments 46 percent of the value of freight handled by its land ports in 2003.
Trucking is by far the most heavily used mode of transportation for freight passing through Detroit, accounting for 83 percent of the value ($85 billion) of total land trade in 2003, down from 91 percent in 1999. Rail accounted for 16 percent in 2003, up from 9 percent in 1999. By weight, trucking also accounts for the largest share of the land imports tonnage (see insert table).
Detroit is an international gateway that serves every state. In 2003, about 72 percent of the value of truck freight passing through Detroit originated or terminated outside Michigan. Over half (59 percent) of the truck imports and 82 percent of the truck exports passing through Detroit are to and from other states. The top three states served by Detroit’s land transportation facilities are Michigan, Ohio, and California, accounting for 52 percent of the merchandise trade transported through Detroit.
Thousands of commercial trucks cross into the United States from Canada through the Windsor Tunnel and Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. These facilities handled over 1.6 million incoming truck crossings in 2003, up 40 percent from about 1.2 million crossings in 1994 (figure 1). These trucks carried about 1.6 million containers into the United States from Canada in 2003. By comparison about 250,000 rail containers from Canada crossed into the United States at Detroit in 2003.
Growth in U.S.–North American land trade and the heavy concentration of this trade at a few major gateways will likely continue to influence freight traffic at Detroit land facilities and the rapidly emerging north-south transportation corridor.