U.S. Representative says speed limiters will hurt Michigan’s trade

| Thursday, December 27, 2007

A U.S. representative from Michigan is concerned that a proposal for mandatory speed limiters in the Canadian province of Ontario will have a negative impact on cross-border trade.

Rep. Joseph Knollenberg, R-MI, wrote a letter to Ontario Transportation Minister James Bradley expressing concerns that a proposal for mandatory speed limiters on big trucks in Ontario could possibly violate the intent of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“NAFTA was designed to foster free trade between the United States and Canada, but it is clear the proposed Ontario regulation would have the reverse effect and may even violate NAFTA,” Knollenberg wrote Dec. 18. “Speed limiters are expensive to install and many trucking businesses, especially small and independent businesses, may choose to simply avoid international trade if it requires traveling through Ontario.”

In October Bradley released a statement following a provincial election indicating that mandatory speed limiters would remain on the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario’s list of priorities.

Knollenberg, ranking member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, raised the point in his letter to Bradley that once a speed limiter is set to a certain speed – a maximum of 105 km/h, or 65 mph, as in the Ontario proposal – it cannot be tampered with or changed. This, he said, could strain the trade relationship between the jurisdictions.

“Many Michigan-based trucking companies travel into and through Ontario on a regular basis,” Knollenberg stated in the letter. “A speed restricting device, or speed limiter, that meets the proposed Ontario regulation would place these vehicles at a competitive disadvantage in other provinces of Canada and in the United States, including Michigan, where higher speed limits are allowed.”

In 1996, Michigan Gov. John Engler raised the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on more than 1,000 miles of major highways, including Interstate 94, which links the Ontario-Michigan border with Chicago.

At the time of the 1996 directive, Michigan had just 170 miles of highway where the speed limit was less than 65 mph.

Michigan exports $20 billion worth of goods into Ontario each year, Knollenberg stressed in his letter. The majority of those goods are moved by truck.

Ontario and Michigan continue to be crucial import-export hubs for their respective countries, according to trade officials with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in a fact sheet about Michigan.

“This relationship greatly outweigh(s) the state’s other foreign trade partnerships, accounting for more exchange than all of Michigan’s other trading partners combined,” Canadian trade officials stated. “Similarly, Canada traded more with Michigan than any other U.S. state, generating over $48 billion in revenue in 2004.”

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