The clogged artery at the Detroit-Windsor border isn’t likely to undergo a cleansing bypass in the form of a new bridge until 2018 at the earliest, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says.
“We’re fired up. We want to get this going. Let’s build this bridge,” Mr. Snyder told a conference on public-private partnerships in Toronto on Monday, adding that he hopes work on the approaches to the new bridge can begin in 2014.
The New International Trade Crossing, as the new bridge is called, is awaiting a presidential permit in the United States, a waiver of the “Buy America” government procurement provisions and approval from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Canadian government is preparing to pay Michigan’s $550-million share of the cost of the span and be repaid through tolls once it’s up and carrying traffic. The project in total is expected to cost about $4-billion.
“It wouldn’t have gotten down without that offer,” Mr. Snyder said in an interview Monday. “The political environment on the Michigan side was difficult enough. It would have required going to the Michigan legislature. Did we have the financial resources to do it?”
The Michigan legislature is also where the Moroun family, who own the existing Ambassador Bridge, have spent decades lobbying and providing financial support to state politicians to maintain their span as the only one across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor. The crossing is one of the busiest in North America and one that carries among the highest value of goods.
The biggest challenge Mr. Snyder and Ottawa are likely to face as they try to get the bridge constructed is the fierce battle still being mounted by the Moroun family, who have launched several legal challenges to the new crossing.
“I’m confident we’ll continue to get sued,” Mr. Snyder told an audience at a downtown Toronto hotel.
The plan for the new bridge cleared a big hurdle earlier this month when a proposal by the Morouns was defeated as Michiganders went to the polls to vote in the presidential election.
The proposal called for an amendment to the state constitution that would have required approval by voters before the state could spend money on any international border crossing, including purchasing land or building any approaches or other supporting infrastructure.
“I expect the Morouns to continue to litigate – file lawsuits on most any rationale they can find,” Mr. Snyder said in the interview.
He said they appeared to have moved their fight to Washington to lobby officials and politicians to try to influence the granting of the presidential and other permits and perhaps include items in other legislation that would delay or impede the building of the new bridge.
He noted that about 237,000 jobs or about 5 per cent of Michigan’s total 4.5 million jobs depend on trade with Canada.
“You will get paid back,” he said.