Traffic Trends

Due to its location, the International Bridge mainly serves locally-based traffic. In August 2000, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) conducted a travel survey of passenger vehicles at the International Bridge. The study found that 70% of all passenger vehicle traffic with Canadian origins came from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and another 12.5% from the Algoma district area.

On the U.S. side, about two-thirds of the vehicles with US origins came from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and another 10% came from Chippewa County. Approximately 66% of the destinations of auto travelers are either Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario or Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Additionally, two-thirds of the vehicles (auto and truck) crossing the International Bridge have Canadian license plates and about 21% have Michigan license plates.

Auto passengers travel across the International Bridge for a wide variety of purposes. The following table summarizes the primary trip purposes reported by our passenger vehicle customers during the August 2000 survey. Due to rounding, these percentages do not add up to 100%.

Trip Purpose

Into Canada

Into the U.S.

Business .5% 1.9%
Casino 1.9% 13.6%
Home 48.1% 20.9%
Other 15.8% 17.8%
Recreation & Entertainment 11.9% 11.7%
School .5% 1.2%
Shopping 7.3% 12.2%
Vacation 11.4% 12.8%
Work 2% 7.6%

Going home was the most frequent trip purpose for both U.S. and Canada bound traffic. Shopping, recreation and entertainment, and casinos accounted for 37.5% of the U.S.-bound traffic on the bridge and 21% of the Canadian-bound traffic.

Because the survey was conducted in August, a significant percentage of bridge traffic (11.4% Canada -bound, 12.8% U.S. bound) was vacation related. The fact that a significant portion of bridge users are vacation travelers is confirmed by the high percentage of infrequent users of the bridge.

The August 2000 survey found that 20% of users cross the bridge only once or twice. Approximately, 10.5% of the users cross daily, 28.4% weekly, and 16.9% monthly, confirming the local characteristics of bridge users.

Automobile traffic on the International Bridge grew steadily from 1980 until it peaked at 3.5 million vehicles in 1993. Since then, auto traffic declined steadily to 2.4 million in 2001, largely due to the growing disparity in Canadian and U.S. currencies. As American products and services have become more expensive, Canadian travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for shopping, recreation, and personal business has declined.

Commercial Truck Traffic Characteristics

There were 129,787 truck and bus crossings of the International Bridge in 2001. Two classes of trucks represented the overwhelming share of truck traffic over the bridge of 81%. These were the Class 8, five-axle trucks with 67,665 crossings and the Class 11, eight or more axle trucks with 51,016 crossings. The next highest volume of trucks were the Class 9 six-axle vehicles with 9,358 crossings.

According to an origin and destination survey conducted by MDOT in 1994, the primary products carried by trucks were pulp and paper products (20%), primary metal products (17%), lumber and wood products (7%), machinery (5%), printed matter (5%), and transportation products (4%). Other products carried across the border included: rubber and plastic goods, miscellaneous manufactured goods, chemical products, forestry products, fresh fish or marine products, textiles, clay, glass and stone products and printed matter. Empty trucks made up 31% of the total.

Based on the analysis of origins and destinations, 62% of the total truck movements at the International Bridge were trips between Canada and Michigan. Trips between Canada and other states represented 34% of all truck trips.

Since 1980, truck crossings at the International Bridge have grown by 227%. Growth in truck crossings can be attributed to the strong U.S. and Canadian economies.