Agreement Reached on Michigan-Canada Bridge Plan

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) - A second international bridge will span
the Detroit River at no cost to Michigan, U.S. and Canadian leaders
announced Friday, hailing a project they said will create thousands
of jobs and stimulate trade between the nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the "truly visionary project" will "mean both jobs and growth" in each country.

Under the terms of the agreement, Michigan isn't obligated to pay any of the costs of the bridge, which Gov. Rick Snyder said will cost $950 million. Both countries would be represented on a bridge board, and a Canadian entity would handle design, construction and operation of the bridge.

Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley joined Harper and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at Friday's event in Windsor. A
signing ceremony on the New International Trade Crossing agreement was held later in the day at Detroit's Cobo Center.

Harper said he makes a lot of important announcements, but that
this is "the single most important" international infrastructure
project he will undertake as prime minister. He said it will also
be one of Canada's best investments.

"The revenues generated by this project will pay for this
project," he said.

The cost to build Michigan's half of the bridge would be repaid
through tolls collected on the Canadian side of the bridge, but
Snyder wouldn't estimate how long that would take.

Canada's government would fund the purchase of land in Canada
and Michigan, as well as the cost of building roadways to connect
the bridge to Interstate 75 in Detroit. The governor said he
expected construction would be finished in fewer than 10 years.

Snyder called the new bridge, which would cross the Detroit
River south of the existing Ambassador Bridge, vital to enhancing
the $70 billion-a-year trade relationship between Michigan and
Canada.

Manuel "Matty" Moroun, the private owner of the Ambassador
Bridge, has fiercely and publicly opposed the Canadian-financed
span. His Detroit International Bridge Co. wants to add a span of
its own.

As of mid-May, Moroun's company had spent $1.6 million this year
on TV ads opposing the new bridge, according to the Michigan
Campaign Finance Network.

The advertising and lobbying campaign has influenced a number of
Snyder's fellow Republicans in the Michigan Legislature. On
Thursday, the GOP-controlled state House approved a supplemental
budget bill that bars the governor from spending state money on a
U.S.-Canada bridge.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said Friday the
Legislature plans to carefully review plans for the bridge.

"It appears Gov. Snyder's plan does not involve any action by
the Legislature, so it seems he has found a way to accomplish his
goal of a new bridge while addressing our chief concern of
protecting taxpayers," Bolger said in a statement.

Moroun's company also is pushing a November ballot proposal that
would require voters' approval to build an alternative bridge.
Mickey Blashfield, director of The People Should Decide ballot
committee, said in a statement Friday that he welcomes Snyder "out
into the public debate" about a bridge.

"Beyond a press event, the governor needs to make his best case
for his government bridge," Blashfield said. "The Michigan
Legislature, after reviewing all the facts, was not convinced. ...
We believe the people want and deserve to have a vote about such an
important issue."

Detroit International Bridge had no comment on Friday.

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said after the
signing ceremony that the bridge would help the Michigan-based
automaker "enormously."

"Ford alone sends about 600 trucks a day across the bridge and
they get hung up often, particularly on the Windsor side. Any time
you get hung up like that, it costs you time and certainly costs
you money," he said. "This will be a huge boost to us ... "

Snyder has said a separate bridge between Detroit and Windsor is
needed, even if Moroun carries out his plans to add a second span.

"I still believe we're in a crisis," Snyder said, even as the
state benefits from falling unemployment and rising auto sales.
"There's no time to wait."


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