Michigan Governor becomes big supporter of new Detroit River toll bridge
By Peter Samuel
The new Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (Republican) has transformed himself in his short few weeks in office from a bridge skeptic to a bridge booster - for the new public-private toll bridge downstream of the Ambassador Bridge. The Governor's press office has taken to putting out statements of support for the new bridge by outside groups and keying them to Snyder's new advocacy line.
Last week they issued a press release headlined "Michigan's auto industry unites in strong support for New International Trade Crossing project" with the lead:
"LANSING, MI - Michigan's automotive industry today voiced its strong support for the proposed New International Trade Crossing to connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The crossing is a public/private partnership with Canada that opens the door to more global exports from Michigan while creating no new debt for the state and no new taxes for Michigan taxpayers.
"Governor Rick Snyder has secured an agreement with the federal government that allows Michigan to count $550 million Canada has offered to contribute to the project toward Michigan's federal match for road funds. This will leverage as much as $2.2 billion in federal highway funds for Michigan to be used for statewide road repairs and infrastructure improvements."
The press statement went on to carry quotes from the top officials of Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group, GM, Toyota, and Honda in favor of the new toll bridge. The Governor's office threw in the jobs pitch and the trade pitch: "The construction portion of the project will create an estimated 10,000 jobs for Michigan workers and support an additional 25,000 Michigan jobs once construction is completed.
"Half of all daily trade between the United States and Canada travels through the Ontario-Michigan border and nearly 60 percent of all Michigan exports go to or through Canada."
press statement from Governor's office:
This generated local headlines like: "SNYDER SAYS SUPPORT FOR D.R.I.C., ERR, N.I.T.C., GROWING" (Gongwer News Service.)
Actually the car companies have long supported the new bridge, and why not? The more capacity and the more competition the better for big users. Those car companies ship large quantities of parts, assemblies and finished vehicles back and forth across the border.
But no matter. Support for the bridge may not be new, but the news is they are making it news.
The Governor is on a new bridge bandwagon, and that bandwagon now looks unstoppable.
It may remain a hard financial fact that the best deal is a modern twin right next to the Ambassador Bridge because:
- the river is narrower there and the main bridge span is more economical to build
- there are already in place or nearly built quality connections to the local US interstates so connections are more economical
- large existing inspection plazas don't need to be duplicated, also better economics
Trouble is the Canadians don't want the Ambassador Twin, as evidenced by their willingness to advance $550m to cover Michigan's downriver bridge costs.
Second the present owners of the Ambassador Bridge have accumulated such a huge stock of ill-will - much outright hatred - on both sides of the river, nothing they propose will fly.
Snyder now seems near certain to get the enabling legislation for the DRIC that his Democrat predecessor as governor Jennifer Granholm was never able to obtain from the state legislature.
We'd expect requests for proposals later this year.
NAME CHANGE: The governor's office used the term New International Trade Crossing (NITC) in place of the permitting name Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Others have suggested naming the new bridge the Gordie Howe Bridge after a popular local ice hockey star - a Canadian native who played for a Detroit team.
also see the pro-bridge site: