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

Orr asks Detroit council to approve $1.4M land sale for bridge to Canada

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr resubmitted an order to city council today to sell 301 city-owned properties for $1.4 million for the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor.

The council has 10 days to vote on the land sale to the state of Michigan. If the council rejects the deal, it must come up with a better plan that achieves similar benefits. In that case, a state emergency loan board would choose between Orr’s plan and the council’s alternative.

The council was scheduled to vote on the land transfer in late July, but Orr pulled back the request after council members and community advocates pressed for a community benefits agreement to be attached to the sale. The properties are tax-reverted and mostly vacant.

A new, non-binding agreement was attached to the land sale and community benefits can be addressed through future agreements required for the bridge project, according to representatives from the state who attended today’s council meeting.

The Canadian government is funding most of the bridge project’s costs. The new, government-owned international bridge from Detroit to Windsor — known as the New International Trade Crossing — could put thousands of people to work in southeast Michigan and revitalize the trade corridor with Canada. It would connect highways in the two cities, relieving traffic congestion for commercial trucks and other vehicles.

Council members still expressed concerns about community benefits despite the state’s assurances today.

Specifically, the makeup of the recently appointed international authority that will approve bridge project agreements was questioned. The six-member board has no representatives who live in the city, much less the Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit impacted by the bridge construction.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said the board’s lack of a community representative “raises a red flag.”

“When there was the opportunity to make sure, to ensure, someone from this community had some direct input, that was not taken,” Jenkins said.

The three Michigan representatives appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the International Authority are Michael Hayes, president and CEO of the Midland Center for the Arts and a former vice president with Dow Chemical; Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of the Right Place, a west Michigan economic development agency, and Matt Rizik, the chief tax officer of Rock Ventures and a former longtime partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The other three board members are Canadian.

Snyder wanted to make sure his appointments had a strong background in economic development and project management, Andrew Doctoroff, senior advisor for transportation initiatives for the state of Michigan, told the council today. At the same time, Snyder wants to make sure the community has input in the project, he said.

A community advisory council will be formed to interact with the International Authority overseeing the project.

For community advocates, the project must include requirements for local hiring during construction and for operation of the bridge, and clean-up of any contaminated sites in the neighborhood. A community benefits agreement also could address potential pollution increases and a reinvestment of money from the land sale into the neighborhood for parks and other improvements.

The council will hold a public meeting at 2 p.m. on Monday at city hall to discuss the proposed land sale and the bridge project.

Originally posted by the: Detroit Free Press

In new Canadian bridge deal, Detroit, Lansing, and Washington continue to drag their feet

Douglas George, Canada’s new consul general in Detroit, is a patient man. He’s had to be. A lifetime diplomat, he’s sat through trade negotiations all over the world, negotiating agreements on intellectual property and softwood lumber.

Most recently, he served for three years as Canada’s ambassador to Kuwait. Now, at 56, he presides over what is actually a mini-embassy in the Renaissance Center — and waits for us to finish getting it together for a new bridge over the Detroit River.

A bridge, that is, that both countries need, that will create thousands of jobs, and that Canada is willing to pay for.

However, Detroit, Lansing, and Washington are costing us money and time by dragging their feet and screwing things up.

To Canada, Detroit is the most economically important border crossing, period. More than a billion dollars a week in freight, mainly heavy automotive components, passes over the aging Ambassador Bridge, completed in 1930.

There is no alternative. Trucking this stuff to Port Huron or Buffalo wouldn’t be cost-effective. You can’t take it through the tunnel. Other than that, there’s just one tiny barge, which takes trucks loaded with hazardous chemicals.

The economies of both nations desperately need a new bridge for security and the future. Even if the Ambassador could be rebuilt, it’s in the wrong place. Trucks crossing over have to endure surface streets and 16 traffic lights before reaching Highway 401, Ontario’s rough equivalent of I-75.

For years, business and governments have fought with Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, who has tried everything to protect his monopoly and stop a new bridge. For years, he managed to do just that, principally by confusing the public and buying off lawmakers with campaign and other contributions.

However, in the last few years, the tide has turned, in large part due to Gov. Rick Snyder standing up to Moroun. Then, too, Canada is footing the bill for all of Michigan’s expenses, with the vague understanding that the state will pay the money back someday out of our share of the toll revenue. Now, essentially only two problems remain:

Washington has to come up with about a quarter-billion to pay for the necessary customs plaza (Canada being another nation, after all). Canadians find the delay somewhat baffling, but as George told me last week, “We don’t want to give the impression that we’re trying to hurry the U.S government.”

But there’s also the question of the neighborhood.

Canada has assembled all the land they need for the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) bridge’s footprint on their side of the border. But this isn’t true on the American side.

The NITC would land squarely in Delray, a once-thriving, multi-ethnic community in Southwest Detroit. Even Delray’s biggest boosters would admit it’s seen better days.

Delray’s population is a shadow of what it once was. Many homes have been abandoned for years, or are vacant lots. Those who remain think it only fair that they get something in return for their aggravation and the families that will be displaced.

Everybody connected with the new bridge has promised good things are coming, but they haven’t been exactly eager to commit to anything. Consequently, the residents have banded together as the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition. They want a share of the jobs.

They want a new recreation center for their kids, and they want some pledges put in writing. They know that if that doesn’t happen, they’re likely to get what they’ve been getting: little or nothing.

In past years, it was easy for city officials to steamroll and ignore any particular neighborhood. But Detroit has district council members now, and one of them, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, represents the people of Delray.

She wants to make sure they get something out of this multibillion-dollar project. Late last month, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was all set to have City Council approve the sale of 301 city-owned parcels of Delray land to the state of Michigan, which would be buying them for $1.4 million with money provided by Canada, to be used for the bridge.

But Castenada-Lopez wanted a community-benefits agreement first, and it was clear that her colleagues agreed.

The Emergency Manager then, for the first and only time, pulled the request back. “It’s an international agreement, (but) I think you need support from the host community to move it forward,” Casteneda-Lopez said.

The councilwoman, who didn’t get back to me in time for this column, was to meet with Delray residents this week, presumably about what might be possible.

Douglas George, now Canada’s main point man on the bridge, said he wasn’t frustrated. On the contrary. Back in the 1970s, as a teenager growing up in Sarnia, he and his friends came to Detroit every chance they got for concerts.

George loves Detroit. And although he’s been saddened by its decline, he’s excited by how fast things seem to be getting better now. And he and his government want to make sure the bridge gets built.

If it doesn’t, everyone loses, and there will be only community harms, not benefits. Finessing this one will take diplomatic skills on all sides, not just from the Canadians.

Originally posted by the: Metro Times