Response to Ambassador Bridge petition move by new bridge groupies COMMENT

April 22, 2012

2012-04-22: Tom Shields of the lobby group Build the DRIC Now issued a statement headed "Response to Ambassador Bridge owners plan to block the New International Trade Crossing." His statement read: "We believe the voters will reject an attempt by Mr. Moroun to guarantee his monopoly in our state's Constitution. If this measure gets to the ballot, Michigan voters will certainly vote to reject Mr. Morouns proposal to line his own pockets at the expense of our state's economic future."

This is pathetic propaganda.

First off, if you're so sure voters will reject the measure what's your problem with putting it on the ballot? Defeat of the measure would be a popular endorsement of your state-sponsored downriver bridge.

Fact is you're fearful that the opinion polling is right, and the Michigan public sense that the bridge is an unnecessary extravagance, and will endorse the measure.

Ambassador Bridge "monopoly"?

Far from being a monopoly there is substantial competition to the Ambassador Bridge.

Less than 2 miles upriver of the Ambassador Bridge is the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. It competes strongly with the bridge for car traffic - last year they got 3.7m cars vs the bridge's 4.6m. The Tunnel gets 44% of the cars to the Ambassador's 56%.

And the tunnel carries more buses.

Because of limited overhead clearance the Tunnel can't compete for heavy trucks.

But 55 miles, 95km northeast at Sarnia the state of Michigan (and the Canadian government) operate the twin 6-lanes Blue Water Bridge.

Most heavy trucks, tractor-trailers especially, are on long-distance journeys - for example from the US midwest to Toronto or points east.

Chicago to Toronto is 485 miles via the Blue Water Bridge or the Ambassador Bridge. Indianapolis to Toronto 510 miles via Blue Water, 515 miles versus Ambassador.

Detroit to London ON is 125 miles by the Blue Water, 117 miles by the Ambassador.  So even for Detroit trucks going to London ON or points east in Canada it's virtually a wash in distance.  (see map)

For trips to the heart of Canada the Ambassador bridge faces strong competition from the Blue Water.

The only segment of the market on which the Ambassador Bridge has a lock is high trucks traveling between the Detroit area and Windsor itself.

Truck traffic at the Blue Water Bridge is substantial 1.45m/yr vs the Ambassador Bridge's 2.62m a 36/64 per cent split.

Market share is probably more a matter of relative cost of tolls and fuel, comparisons between immediate approach roads, speeds getting border clearance, and the quality of facilities such as duty-free shopping and quality of truckstop type facilities.

The monopoly characterization is rubbish.

Guarantee of "monopoly"  in the Constitution?

The Petition would require a popular vote for the state to sponsor a new bridge: "...the State shall not undertake ownership and the development of or use of State funds or resources for new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles unless first determined to be necessary and appropriate by majority vote of the people."

Shields shamelessly misrepresents the petition.

"...Mr. Moroun(')s proposal to line his own pockets at the expense of our state's economic future."

Mr Moroun to whom Shields refers is Manuel 'Matty' Moroun, going on 85, a frail old man who has undergone multiple heart surgeries and has long since passed management of the company to his son and other professionals. He no longer has a controlling interest in the company. To personalize and attribute solely to Matty Moroun this petition decision is both absurd and nasty, part of a pathetic campaign to stoke envy and anger by vilifying one man.

If he had just wanted to "line his pockets" - to use Shields' term - Moroun would long ago have sold the Ambassador Bridge and like many other business people moved to a less nasty environment than that sustained by the Tom Shieldses of Michigan public debate.

Nothing could be more ruinous to the state of Michigan's economic future than Tom Shields cause -  squandering  taxpayer dollars on unnecessary extra crossing capacity and spreading already thin traffic (just 45,000 vehicles a day) over four crossings rather than three.

It is a sure formula for financial trouble, defaults and bankruptcies not only at the Ambassador Bridge but at the Tunnel, the state's Blue Water Bridge and the new downriver bridge.

One day...

Now one day an extra crossing might be needed. The city might get its budgetary problems fixed. Tax and regulatory burdens might be lifted. Unions might be forced to compete for support rather than have the state enforce it. The economy of Detroit might blossom.

People might return to the Detroit area instead of leaving year by year. A new industrial renaissance might occur.

If traffic at the three existing crossings were say 145,000 and growing there would be a case for adding capacity now. But at a paltry 45,000/day, (16.4m/year) and not growing, it's a sure road to ruin, and for many more than the Matty Monster they love to hate - editor.

NOTE: Shields runs MRG a lobby/consulting group for big government/left causes and people actually pay him for this stuff. MRG stands for the bland Marketing Resources Group. Gawd, he needs to sex it up a bit. How about Michigan Rage Groupies.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-04-21

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