Stephen Harper, Rick Snyder sign bridge deal
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed agreements this afternoon to move forward with the New International Trade Crossing bridge between Detroit and Windsor.
The NITC project has been championed by Michigan’s business community and is endorsed by Big Three automakers, local chambers of commerce from across the state, the UAW, and west Michigan companies like Amway and Herman Miller.
Ford Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. said today the new crossing is essential for auto manufactures in Michigan and Ontario.
“We’re running flat out at our plants,” Ford said. “We’re running just-in-time inventory so anytime you get hung-up, as we frequently do [at the border], it does cost time because you’ve got to slow down production at the plants. So this a huge boost to us.”
As part of the deal, Canada will front Michigan’s $550 million for the state's share of the project cost. Canada will be reimbursed through toll revenue. Michigan will be able to count Canada’s money as matching funds to leverage as much as two billion dollars in federal highway money over the course of the construction, likely 3-4 years.
State officials say the bridge will not require any Michigan tax dollars, an assertion backed up in a detailed study last year from the Anderson Economic Group.
The bridge deal is essentially the same plan Lansing lawmakers rejected last summer. This time Snyder went around the legislature and used the Michigan Strategic Fund as a mechanism to allow the state to sign onto the project.
Former Governor and Ambassador to Canada Jim Blanchard, a Democrat, praised his Republican successor for moving the new bridge forward.
“The Governor has the power under the law and in the Constitution to do this,” Blanchard said. “The Michigan Strategic Fund is part of it, which is an agency I created when I was governor for things just like this.”
The project must now secure a presidential permit and Coast Guard approval.
Congressman Gary Peters says every effort will be made to expedite these final bureaucratic hurdles in Washington.
“It’s difficult to have a precise prediction when it comes to that, but certainly everyone understands the urgency of the project—that it should get started as soon as possible,” Peters said. “There will be efforts to make that happen.”
A bigger concern for bridge-backers may be the possibility that Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun could mount a legal or political campaign to block the project.
Congressman Hansen Clarke, while not naming Moroun, says he’s prepared to fight any effort in Congress to scuttle the new bridge.
“I’ve be altered it’s a possibility,” Clarke said. “And I’ll be on guard to fight any attempts to block the construction of this bridge.”
A groundbreaking for the new bridge, to be built and operated by an as-yet-unselected contractor, will likely take place in late 2013 or early 2014. Work is expected to be completed in 2017.