Awaiting word from feds, NITC officials continue prep work for Detroit River bridge

While officials await word from Washington that it will pay for its toll plaza for the New International Trade Crossing, the prep work continues for the new bridge across the Detroit River on both sides of the border.

“They are still pretty much keeping on schedule, but they are having to work around the fact they don’t have the federal funds yet,” said Tom Shields, New International Trade Crossing coalition spokesman and president of Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group. “In order for this thing to really launch, they need the commitment of the dollars for the toll plaza.”

That amounts to about $264 million, but there have been no guarantees the federal government will come through with the funding. The Canadian government is paying for everything else related to the $2 billion project.

As the lobbying for that funding continues by state officials and members of the congressional delegation, the Michigan and Canadian governments are doing everything else they can to keep the project moving for targeted completion by 2020.

The state is close to finalizing its first land acquisition, which will represent about 30 percent of the parcels needed to locate the bridge landing and toll plaza.

Earlier this week, the Detroit City Council rejected the state’s offer of $1.4 million for 301 parcels in the Delray neighborhood where the new bridge will land, but Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr plans to approve it anyway, which he has the authority to do under state law.

But the council can prepare an alternative plan for the state’s emergency loan board to consider next week, similar to what it did when the state was considering the leasing of Belle Isle. The board rejected the council’s Belle Isle plan and went with Orr’s plan to lease the park to the state.

Part of the council’s counterproposal is expected to include its idea for a community benefits package for the residents of Delray, something Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, who represents the area, has always sought.

She said the package should include funding to help rehabilitate some of the most dilapidated of the 2,000 homes that will remain in the area surrounding the new bridge. Once the bridge is in place and the increased truck traffic commences, Tlaib said, those homes are never going to be able to increase their property values without assistance.

While the bridge project references having a community benefit component, she said it is not defined.

She said she does not want the vendor to just plant some trees and then be able to check off a box that it provided “community benefits.”

“We really want something sustainable,” she said. “We don’t people to cross that border and see poverty and decay and blight. We want people to come across and see Pure Michigan, Pure Detroit, see a really thriving border community.”

Another wrinkle in the land acquisition appears to have had little effect.

At this week’s council meeting, Ambassador Bridge Co. President Dan Stamper presented a plan to outbid the state and purchase the parcels for $1.5 million, with another $1 million to begin rebuilding homes in the neighborhood.

That offer was met with skepticism from council members and was not accepted.

Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has always opposed the new bridge, and has spent millions doing so. His company has also purchased some of the parcels that the state will need to acquire before moving forward with construction.

Those properties will take longer to acquire, Shields said, as the state is expected to have to use eminent domain to obtain them.

Because the Legislature did not allow the state to spend money to purchase property, the state is doing the negotiating for the land purchases, then after the six-member International Authority approves the purchase, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will pay for the land.

The International Authority, which consists of three members each from Michigan and Canada, was created in 2012 as part of a border-crossing agreement the two governments signed that year. The bridge authority, also created in 2012, is a not-for-profit crown corporation which reports to the Canadian Parliament through the Minister of Transport.

The Canadian government has acquired about 80 percent of the properties it needs, and land acquisition is expected to be completed in the next year and a half, with the possibility of a four-year construction period beginning sometime in 2016.

 

Originally posted in: Crain’s Detroit Business

Detroit EM To Go Ahead With Land Sale For New US-Canada Bridge Despite Objections

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Detroit City Council might not like a proposal to sell 301 city-owned properties to build a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada — but that’s not going to stop state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

The council on Tuesday unanimously rejected the $1.4 million deal to make way for a new commuter bridge to Windsor, Ontario, saying the proposal did nothing to protect the Delray neighborhood or its nearly 900 residents who would be forced to move.

Orr is expected to push the deal through, anyway.

Under Michigan state law, Orr has the power to veto council’s vote and go ahead with the sale. Otherwise, the council would have until Sept. 16 to submit an alternative plan. A state emergency loan board would then decide between Orr’s original plan and the council’s counter-offer.

The U.S. State Department approved the bridge project last year, but construction hasn’t started yet. Canada is paying most of the $2 billion project’s cost on both sides of the border and plans to recoup the money through tolls.

The new span would cross the Detroit River about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, from the Brighton Beach neighborhood in Windsor to the Delray neighborhood in Detroit. Officials say they hope to open the bridge in 2020.

The project is opposed by the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, whose family wants to build its own second span. Records show the Moroun family has spent over $1 million since 2009 in their fight to stop a new government-owned span.

An estimated 2.7 million trucks pass through the Detroit-Windsor crossing, carrying $120-billion worth of goods annually.

Originally posted by: CBS Detroit

More tenders issued to advance construction of DRIC bridge

Several tenders to advance construction of the planned $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project are being issued over the next several weeks with the first being issued on Tuesday.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) is rolling out requests for proposals and seeking quotations on information technology, finding office accommodations, website development and others.

“These requests for proposals mark an important step towards the WDBA becoming fully operational,” said Michael Cautillo, the WDBA’s president and CEO.

“We look forward to having local and area businesses compete and for them to be part of this exciting project.”

Information on the RFPs and other opportunities will be published in local newspapers, on the MERX electronic tendering system and eventually on the new WDBA website.

Decisions on the RFPs are expected to be made within weeks, according to a spokesman for the WDBA.

More office and project related opportunities will be issued over the coming months, Cautillo said.

The WDBA will oversee planning, construction and operation of the DRIC bridge which will connect the industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray. It is expected to open in 2020.

Originally posted in: The Windsor Star

New bridge authority seeking bids for services

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, the entity that will build a new government bridge between Canada and the Motor City, is seeking bids for suppliers to help it get organized.

The Windsor Star was reporting this week that initial requests issued Tuesday, known as tenders, were asking for proposals and quotations on computer services , office space, website development, and more.

The Star quoted Michael Cautillo, the authority’s new president and CEO , as saying the proposals being sought would be a key step in helping the newly formed authority to get organized.

“We look forward to having local and area businesses compete and for them to be part of this exciting project,” Cautillo told the Star.

As reported by the Free Press recently, Cautillo has said the authority eventually will hire 40 to 50 staffers to help him run the project.

The future span, known in Michigan as the New International Trade Crossing, is planned to connect Detroit and Windsor about two miles downstream from the Ambassador Bridge. The bridge is expected to be ready for traffic around 2020 and to create thousands of construction jobs.

Originally posted by the: Detroit Free Press

Moroun offers city $1 million to give up 10,000 jobs.

DETROIT – Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has launched a bidding war – with an offer of $1.1 million more than what the state of Michigan offered the city of Detroit – to gain control of 301 parcels of municipal land required for the new bridge.

A real estate company under Moroun’s control – Real Estate Purchasing LLC – would pay $1.5 million for the properties, donate an additional $1 million to the city for redevelopment of the lands, then hand the parcels back to the city of Detroit for redevelopment, according to a written offer sent to Detroit city council by Dan Stamper, president of the Ambassador Bridge.

The lands were priced at $1.4 million just last week when the city’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr requested Detroit’s council approve the sale of the properties – which are largely vacant parcels acquired through non-payment of taxes.

Under that plan, the state of Michigan would be the new owner of the properties with the Canadian government reimbursing the $1.4 million purchase price to the state.

Ottawa has budgeted $631 million over the next two years for the planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project to be used to fund the land purchase.

The bridge would link the downriver industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray with a scheduled opening of 2020.

Should Detroit’s council approve Orr’s request it would be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side for the DRIC project.

But on Monday, the bridge company threw a wrench into Orr’s plan with its much higher offer.

Stamper said there were many benefits to the Ambassador Bridge’s proposed deal, in an emailed statement to the Star. He said Detroit would be able to keep joint control over the 301 parcels of land and have “a real opportunity” to rebuild and improve the Delray neighbourhood. He added the city would be able to collect taxes on the parcels of land, “unlike the State offer to remove all property from the tax rolls in perpetuity.”

“This is an opportunity for our companies to work collaboratively with Detroit and residents of Southwest Detroit in a sincere effort which benefits both parties,” Stamper said.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) is the newly formed local entity to oversee construction of the bridge project, but its top official referred questions about the proposed land sale to the office of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder since it is a proposed deal between the state and city of Detroit.

“The WDBA continues to work with our Michigan colleagues to advance this important project,” said MIke Cautillo, CEO for the authority. “We look forward to a resolution so that the project, which is so important the communities and the economies on both sides of the border, can proceed.”

Despite the higher bid, Snyder’s office is confident the city will do what’s best for residents in that area.

“The city is not obligated to select the highest bidder, but rather the option that is in the city’s best interest,” said David Murray, spokesman for Snyder.

Despite the better financial offer from the bridge owner – who has fought to stop the DRIC bridge project to protect $60 million in annual toll revenues – the new DRIC crossing offers “important benefits” for Delray, he countered.

“The state has worked closely with Mayor (Mike) Duggan and the community to draft a comprehensive Neighborhood Development Agreement that states numerous commitments will be made to both residents of Delray and Detroiters more broadly,” said Murray, who sits on the DRIC project team.

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) has been fighting hard to ensure both job opportunities and improvements to the Delray community are guaranteed by agreements before construction gets started on the DRIC bridge.

Nearly all property required on the Canadian side for the project has been acquired by Transport Canada.

In total, there are roughly 1,000 residential and commercial properties that need to be expropriated and purchased for the bridge, plaza and feeder roads in Delray.

It is anticipated the overall cost for those properties will be about $300 million – roughly the same price spent in Windsor to buy lands necessary to make room for the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway.

Originally posted by: The Windsor Star

Most hurdles in way of bridge have been overcome

The struggle has taken years, but most of the hurdles in the way of a new Detroit River bridge have been overcome. Agreements have been signed; the site chosen, environmental and presidential permits issued.

True, Washington has yet to appropriate the $250 million needed for a customs plaza, and Matty Moroun, the 87-year-old owner of the Ambassador Bridge, is still having attorneys file a seemingly endless procession of nuisance suits.
However, few think these are serious concerns. But there is one more solution yet to be worked out: Making things right for the people in the old Detroit neighborhood where new bridge’s American footprint used to be, a neighborhood known as Delray,

“We aren’t asking for swimming pools or anything outrageous,” said Simone Sagovac, the voice of a group called the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition. “We are concerned with things like air quality, noise abatement and jobs,” she said.

Her concerns aren’t surprising. Detroit has a long history of trampling over and ignoring community groups when major developments are on the table.

Earlier this summer, for example, Detroit City Council refused to require a community benefits agreement of any kind in connection with the new hockey arena being built by Olympia Entertainment, owned by the Ilitch family of Little Caesar’s Pizza fame.

That was case even though the bankrupt city “sold” the land to the billionaire, for a dollar. But when it came to the bridge project, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr offered the city a better deal in July: He wanted the city council to sell 301 city-owned parcels of land in and around where the American-side the “footprint” of the new bridge would be. This time, however, Detroit would get $1.4 million.

While the land would technically be sold to the state, the money is actually being put up by the government of Canada, which is covering all Michigan’s costs. (Those funds are to be repaid years from now, out of the state’s share of the new bridge’s toll fees.)

But at the last minute, the emergency manager pulled back the request, after it became clear that city council wasn’t ready to approve it. Why? For the first time in a century, most council members are elected from districts, rather than at large.

Raquel Castenada-Lopez is the newly elected council member from the district that includes both bridge sites. Detroit’s first-ever Hispanic councilwoman doesn’t want the land transfer to go through without some guarantee of benefits for those living there.

“For me, it is all about supporting the community,” she told me last week. Back in the neighborhood, Simone Sagovac is trying to look out for people who have had a long history of hard times.

Before the Great Depression, Delray was a thriving Hungarian-American community with nearly ten times the 2,783 people it had in the last census. Gradually, factories closed and people left. Gangs, crime, and foul smells from a wastewater treatment plant drove more people away.

In recent years, even if anyone had wanted to help develop the area, talk of a new bridge — and uncertainty about where the precise “footprint” would be — would have been enough to drive them off.

Canadian diplomats are eager for these concerns to be satisfactorily addressed, but have to walk a fine line. They do not want to be seen as criticizing America or meddling in domestic policy.

On the other hand, they want to see justice done — and most of all, they want to get on with the bridge, which will open in 2020 at the earliest. Last year, then-Canadian Consul General Roy Norton told the Southwest Detroit Business Association Canada would insist that the public-private partnership that will build and run the bridge “establish and maintain mechanisms to understand and address community concerns.”

Eventually, he added, when companies bid to get the contract to actually build the bridge, they will have to explain “how they would reach out to the community, be a good neighbor, employ locally and so forth.” Plus, explain “what kind of community outreach the consortium would be undertaking so as to minimize detrimental impacts for items such as vibration, noise, traffic routing …”

To Sagovac, that all sounds good in theory. But Norton has now gone off to another post in Chicago, and in any event, she has to deal with local and state governments in this country. She knows all about noise and air pollution. She doesn’t actually live in Delray, but for the last 23 years, has lived near the Ambassador Bridge, where trucks can sometimes be stacked up for hours, belching fumes and keeping people awake with their engines.

Her coalition is not against a new bridge, she hastens to say. In fact, they have no use for Moroun, who once panicked Delray residents by having phony eviction notices put on their homes.

They just don’t want their tough lives to get any tougher. A well-placed source in Canada said he could “understand why folks in Delray have difficulty summoning trust.”

But they added that “patience, faith and trust all are called for here.” The worry is that somehow, misguided zeal on behalf of the residents could cause Detroit City Council to stall a project vital to the business interests and future economies of both nations.

Last month, Sagovac asked for a meeting with the newly appointed International Authority which will oversee the construction of the new bridge. She is still waiting for an answer.

Detroit City Council is expected to be finally formally asked about transferring the land, presumably sometime this month.

The key to the future may lie in what happens then.

Written by Jack Lessenberry in the: Traverse City, Record-Eagle

Purchase of first U.S. properties for new border bridge close

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

Detroit’s city council is being asked to approve the sale of 301 properties needed for a new border crossing bridge to Windsor.

They will be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side if Detroit council approves the request by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, as expected within the next 10 days.

The properties are largely vacant, “tax-reverted” parcels with a total price tag of $1.4 million.

The state of Michigan would be the new owner of the properties, which the Canadian government would buy from it for the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project. Ottawa has budgeted $631 million over the next two years for the project, including the land purchases.

Canada has committed to paying Michigan’s share of the project cost, up to $550 million, to buy land and build a feeder road linking the bridge plaza in Detroit to the I-75 freeway.

The government expects to recoup its investment through tolls.

The Windsor-Detroit Detroit Bridge Authority was established last month to get the project moving. It has already staged a handful of meetings and has plans to establish an office in Windsor and begin hiring about three dozen staff in the coming weeks.

“The WDBA continues to work with our Michigan colleagues to advance this important project,” said authority CEO Michael Cautillo said Thursday. “All involved are encouraged that the issue will be considered by Detroit’s council.”

The DRIC bridge, scheduled to open in 2020, will link the downriver industrial communities of Brighton Beach in Windsor and Delray in Detroit.

Nearly all property required on the Canadian side for the project has been acquired by Transport Canada.

In total, there are roughly 1,000 residential and commercial properties that need to be expropriated and purchased for the bridge, plaza and feeder roads in Delray.

It is anticipated the overall cost for those properties will be about $300 million — roughly the same amount spent in Windsor to buy land for the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway.

The parkway – the new border feeder highway that will link with the DRIC bridge – is expected to be completed late next year.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star