Detroit, Michigan-Land Gateway

Detroit, Michigan-Land Gateway

Detroit was the nation''s busiest land border gateway by value for imports and exports transported across the border by highways, railroads, and pipelines in 2008. Its land ports were the fifth leading gateway when compared with all U.S. land, air, and sea freight gateways.

In 2008, merchandise trade passing through Detroit ($120 billion) accounted for 15 percent of the value of U.S. total land trade. These freight shipments accounted for 18 percent of all U.S. land exports and 12 percent of land imports. Detroit was a major gateway for both exports and imports, with outbound shipments accounting for 55 percent of the value of freight handled by its land ports and inbound shipments accounting for 45 percent in 2008 (table 1).

Trucking was by far the most heavily used mode of transportation for freight passing through Detroit, accounting for 84 percent of the value ($101 billion) of total land trade in 2008, down from 91 percent in 2000. Rail accounted for 15 percent in 2008, up from 9 percent in 2000 (table 2). By weight, trucking also accounted for the largest share of land imports tonnage (see insert table).

Detroit is an international gateway that serves almost every state. In 2008, about 74 percent of the value of truck freight passing through Detroit originated or terminated outside Michigan. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of imports that passed through Detroit by truck, and 81 percent of truck exports, were to and from other states. The top three states served by Detroit''s land transportation facilities were Michigan, Ohio, and California, accounting for 48 percent of the merchandise trade transported through Detroit (table 3).

Thousands of commercial trucks cross daily into the United States from Canada via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge. The tunnel and bridge handled more than 1.5 million incoming truck crossings in 2008, down 15 percent from about 1.8 million crossings in 2007 (figure 1). These trucks carried about 1.5 million containers into the United States from Canada in 2008. By comparison, about 210,000 rail containers from Canada crossed into the United States at Detroit in 2008, continuing a decline that began in 2000.

The recent national economic downturn, the decline in production by the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), and the overall slowdown in heavy manufacturing activities are likely to continue to influence freight traffic at Detroit's land facilities and in the freight transportation corridors they serve. (See discussion, page 18.)