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Detroit Bridge Plan Divides City, Despite Canadian Funding

The Washington Times – June 14, 2011

DETROIT – A proposed bridge to link Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan is proving to be a controversial plan. The $2 billion span would supplement the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, built in 1929 and now carries an estimated 10,000 commercial vehicles per day.

New Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is in the middle of the fierce debate over the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), which he says will increase trade. The project, proposed almost a decade ago, has been hung up in the legislature since last year, with critics claiming taxpayers cannot afford it with the state’s economic woes. The Michigan Legislature began talks this week on the new span, which would cross the Detroit River between the Motor City and Windsor.

Gov. Snyder promoted the bridge in his first State of the State speech this year, and again at this month’s annual state public policy conference held on Mackinac Island in view of the massive bridge from the Eisenhower administration era connecting the state’s upper and lower peninsulas. “The Mackinac Bridge has been a shining example of what a modern bridge can do for our state,” Snyder said. “It has lived up to its expectations. Now it’s time to build a new bridge to Canada that will provide efficient and reliable infrastructure to the largest trading partner of Michigan and America.”

The owner of the 81-year-old Ambassador Bridge, billionaire trucking magnate Manuel Moroun, has fought aggressively to stop the public project, saying it is too expensive if toll revenue does not cover the cost of building it. He favors refurbishing the existing bridge, or offered to pay to build a twin-span bridge at the key border passage. Moroun’s application to construct a second span was declined by the U.S. Coast Guard in March 2010 over ongoing state and federal lawsuits, and failure to secure property rights. The Coast Guard must approve plans because it has authority over navigable waterways.

“We don’t need taxpayers to support the second bridge when I’ve been willing to put that second bridge up for free in an economical manner,” Moroun said in a radio news interview. “The government wants to build a new bridge, even though there is not enough traffic to do it.” Moroun said traffic on the Ambassador bridge is down 40 percent since 2000. Critics of his plan have raised concerns over his monopoly and lack of roadway competition crossing the river. The Tom Warne Report

I went across the Ambassador Bridge a couple of times this week to do the partnering session for the Windsor-Essex Parkway project. In conversation with one of the Canadian agents, when she found out I was working on the parkway she exclaimed, “When are they going to build the new bridge!” I had no answer but it shows people are thinking about it. TW