Michigan bills offered to build Detroit River crossing

| Friday, June 03, 2011

An effort to build a new publicly owned toll bridge connecting Michigan and Canada moved forward this week.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder announced on Wednesday, June 1, a renewed effort to build a bridge in Detroit downriver from the Ambassador Bridge – the busiest commercial border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. The new bridge is intended to relieve congestion on the existing structure.

The governor has made the New International Trade Crossing a priority since lawmakers completed work on a new state budget. He says it is time to move forward with building the bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

“Both economies are deeply connected and heavily reliant on the free flow of trade through the Detroit-Windsor corridor,” Snyder said in a statement. “Forty-nine percent of all Michigan exports are sold right across the border in Canada.”

At Snyder’s urging, Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, introduced two bills that would allow the state to enter a public-private partnership with Canada and a private group to build and operate the bridge.

A similar effort stalled a year ago in the Republican-controlled Senate. Many lawmakers were concerned whether it would sufficiently protect taxpayers if toll revenues lagged.

To address those concerns, a provision in this year’s version would prohibit taxpayer money from being used to build the bridge. Also, the bridge could not add to the state’s debt.

Instead, a private group would bear the responsibility to finance, construct and operate the bridge. The cost to complete the project is pegged at $4 billion.

To cover Michigan’s share of the cost, the Canadian government has offered the state $550 million. Canada and the private developer would be repaid for their investments from the bridge’s toll revenue.

In addition, Richardville said that money would qualify the state for nearly $2.2 billion in federal matching funds to be used for roads throughout the state.

“This isn’t about one bridge in Detroit. It is about investing in our transportation infrastructure statewide and creating thousands of jobs for Michigan residents,” Richardville stated.

The bridge project is opposed by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. He has been pushing to build his own bridge next to the existing structure, which is about two miles from the proposed NITC site.

Moroun paid for a study that showed the NITC would cost the state nearly $5 billion over 20 years. State officials say those claims are untrue.

The bills – SB410 and SB411 – will be referred to the Senate Economic Development Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

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