The 10-year-long fight to get a new six-lane bridge built between Detroit, Mich. and Windsor, Ont. reaches a critical juncture today.
Michigan voters are being asked to vote for or against Proposal 6, one of several items on the ballot besides who gets the nod for president on this U.S. election day.
If approved, Proposal 6 would halt or delay the $4-billion New International Trade Crossing, intended to ease cross-border trade, a project Ottawa is so keen to see through that it’s offering to finance the Great Lake State’s $550-million share.
The latest straw polls indicate that Proposal 6 -- which calls for amending the state’s constitution so that approval of a majority of Michigan voters is required before the state can proceed with a new international bridge -- will be rejected.
Proponents, including Canadian ambassador to Washington Gary Doer and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, have faced a huge anti-bridge campaign led by Manuel (Matty) Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge who has raised about $32-million (U.S.) to sway voters to vote for Proposal 6.
Backers of a second span say it will likely eliminate the long Ambassador Bridge lineups for trucks carrying billions of dollars worth of goods every year and help boost economic development in southeast Michigan.
Mr. Moroun and his “People Should Decide” campaign suggests that the state’s taxpayers could ultimately end up with responsibility for the debt, despite assurances that Canada would assume all costs and liabilities.
Pro-Proposal-6 flyers stuffed into Michigan mailboxes over the weekend were slammed by critics who said they were misleading.
The flyer claims that taxpayers will end up paying for proposed improvements to the neglected Delray neighborhood, where the bridge would be located on the U.S. side.
“More of your money for Detroit?” read the headline over a photo of a rundown Detroit street. “Don’t let the politicians give away more pork projects and ‘special giveaways’ for the new bridge.”
Putting up a second span across the Detroit River is at the top of the Harper government’s agenda for infrastructure.
Two-way trade between Canada and the U.S. in the Windsor-Detroit corridor rang in at about $120-billion last year. That represents about 25 per cent of all Canada-U.S. trade in goods.
Bottlenecks at the Ambassador Bridge -- built in 1929 -- are expected to worsen if a second route isn’t build, say second-bridge backers, including most trade unions as well as the auto makers and auto-parts suppliers that are heavily concentrated in the region. Truck crossings at the Ambassador Bridge are forecast to more than double by 2035.
Tuesday’s vote might not be the last word on the controversial issue.
Bridge proponents have said they fear that the Moroun family or a company controlled by them will launch legal action, even if Proposal 6 is approved, to make sure the new-bridge project is truly halted in its tracks. The governments of Canada and Michigan say an agreement they signed in June to green light the bridge can’t be overturned by the ballot proposal.