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Report On Business Canada to pay entire cost of Detroit-Windsor U.S. Customs plaza

In a photo from Jan. 6, 2015 in Detroit, the Ambassador Bridge leading into Windsor, Ontario is seen from Detroit. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the Obama administration and Canada have agreed with Canada for financing a key piece of a planned $2.1 billion bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Carlos Osorio/AP

The Canadian government has failed to get Washington to pay the roughly $250-million (U.S.) needed to build a U.S. Customs plaza on the Michigan side of a new Detroit-Windsor bridge.

Ottawa will be responsible for financing the entire cost of the $2.1-billion bridge, including access roads on both sides of the Detroit River as well as U.S. border installations, under a deal announced Wednesday.

The federal government intends to build the bridge with the help of private partners, and then repay itself over several decades through tolls collected from trucker and motorists.

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Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt insisted Canadian taxpayers won't bear the cost of the U.S. installations.

"The cost of the U.S. Port of Entry will be repaid from future toll revenues and not by Canadian taxpayers," Ms. Raitt said in a statement. "This arrangement is good for Canada and for Canadians."

Ottawa will, however, guarantee any debt incurred by the public-private partnership that is eventually selected to do the project, according to Canadian government officials. The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, a Canadian Crown corporation, will manage the project on behalf of Canada and Michigan, collect the tolls and then repay the upfront costs incurred by Ottawa and its private partners, officials said.

Ms. Raitt said the project can now move to the next phase, which includes further design work and property acquisition on the U.S. side of the border.

Ottawa has long argued that the U.S. government should pay for its own infrastructure, given that Canada is already covering virtually the entire cost of the bridge as well as access roads on both sides of the border. The project, which spans the busiest trade crossing between the two countries, is slated to be completed in 2020.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office suggested in a 2012 press release that the plaza would be "the responsibility of the U.S. government."

In the end, Washington agreed only to staff, operate and maintain the Customs plaza in Detroit.

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In a statement, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the agreement removes "a significant obstacle that has delayed this critical infrastructure project from moving forward."

It isn't end of obstacles for the project. Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, has been fighting efforts by Michigan and Canada to build the bridge, insisting it will harm the Ambassador's business.

In court filings, the company argued that it needs to build a second span across the Detroit River to handle traffic while it repairs the Ambassador so it can compete with the publicly financed bridge.

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