Michigan senate leader says: No $#s on DRIC bridge, no vote
By Peter Samuel
Michigan's state senate majority leader Mike Bishop (Republican) says that without revenue forecasts the upper house of the legislature will not vote on authorizing legislation for a new Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Michigan DOT which supports the new bridge has released a traffic-only study by Wilbur Smith Associates, but no revenue estimates.
Authorizing legislation has passed the state lower house controlled by Democrats, but it now looks doomed in the Senate.
The Canadians are gung-ho for the new DRIC bridge and have offered to lend the near-broke state of Michigan the money needfed to build a new interchange, border plaza and approaches on the US side. Skeptics question how the Canadian loans would be repaid.
The bridge span itself would be financed by a concessionaire according to the Canadian-Michigan DOT proposal, but there is no financial plan for that.
State transportation director Kirk Steudle said today that releasing toll revenue forecasts for the new bridge would weaken the state's negotiating position when procuring a concessionaire to build the toll bridge.
Potential concessionaires have already said in responses to a request for information that they do not see the project as financially viable based on tolls. They are suggesting that governments take the traffic and revenue risk by entering into availability payments contracts.
The Detroit-Windsor area already has three crossings - the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge to the north.
WSA has forecast a revival of growth in traffic which has been stagnant since the turn of the century. A rival study by Halcrow was less optimistic.
Compromise a ways off
A compromise could eventually be to defer the DRIC while getting the Ambassador Bridge company to build a new parallel span of 6 modern lanes taking advantage of heavy investments in the interchange and border plazas on the US side and the border plaza on the Canadian side.
The existing bridge is over 80 years old and has only four tight lanes.
The Canadian objection to the Ambassador bridge has also been the lack of a free flow link between the bridge and the expressways of the area. A Windsor-Essex Parkway currently under construction will provide free flow expressway conditions from the H401 to the site of the proposed DRIC bridge.
The compromise would require the Canadians to lengthen that Windsor-Essex Parkway from the presently planned end at the DRIC less than 2 miles (3km) to the Ambassador plaza.
Huge ill-will incurred
The Ambassador bridge company has incurred huge ill-will on both sides of the border through the unattractive personalities of the owners, their breaches of contracts, engaging in unpermitted construction, and claims of a perpetual right to a monopoly.
The bridge would probably have to be sold to less tainted owners for any such compromise to be struck.
see earlier 'peace plan' report
Steudle's secrecy a blunder
Meanwhile secretary Steudle's reluctance to release revenue estimates for the new DRIC is a gift to opponents now able to charge him with covering up a potential financial catastrophe. No state official negotiating a concession has ever previously, to our knowledge, said that forecasts must be kept secret.
To the contrary, publicly available revenue studies are normally a key part of the concession procurement.