The Border Cities' Bridge To The Future

June 14, 2012, 11:56 PM

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will sign documents this afternoon consummating plans to build the New International Trade Crossing bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to join Snyder and Harper at appearances in Windsor, where they plan to announce the deal, and Detroit, where they will sign an agreement formalizing the plan.

According to a source close to the negotiations, the deal will be essentially the same as plans discussed last summer—a private contractor will be selected to build and operate the bridge and toll plazas, Canada will front Michigan’s $550 million for the state’s cost to build Customs facilities and U.S.-side freeway connections. Michigan will reimburse Canada through its share of toll revenues. Canadian officials have said they have no fixed timeline for repayment.

The Canadian money for Michigan’s project costs are not expected to be routed though any Michigan public or quasi-public funding mechanism. Instead, the money will go directly from Ottawa to the concessionaire selected to build the bridge.

While the bridge’s builder/operator has not been chosen, 20 firms responded favorably to a 2010 request for “expressions of interest” in the project. The eventual builder/operator will need to raise an estimated one billion dollars to construct the span.

Overall, the entire project is expected to cost around $2 billion.

According to the source, NITC backers fully expect Ambassador Bridge-owner Matty Moroun to attempt to block the project in court, but supporters of the new crossing are confident the project will prevail legally. Some doubt Moroun will even have standing to get a hearing.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2014, although it’s possible work could begin in 2013 depending on the pace of predevelopment work. The bridge likely will be completed in 2017.

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