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

Canada’s new consul general is determined to build a new Detroit River bridge

I had a conversation yesterday with Douglas George, the Canadian government’s new consul general in Detroit.

For Canada, this area is an economic region important enough to merit a mini-embassy. Ottawa has a vast suite of offices in the Renaissance Center, and a large staff, some busy with immigration matters, and the rest primarily with economic and trade questions.

One indication of how important Canada sees Detroit is that Consul George was most recently their ambassador to Kuwait, and before that was a major trade negotiator who at various times headed both their government’s tariff and intellectual property divisions.

Here, he is responsible for trade and other issues involving a five-state area economically vital to Canada.

Detroit is, without any doubt, the most important border crossing between our two nations, and businesses on both sides of the border, especially Canada, have been consumed by the need for a second bridge capable of handling major freight.

Every week, well over a billion dollars in heavy automotive and other manufacturing components pass over the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge. There is no other economically and geographically feasible way of moving this stuff.

Nor is the current bridge in a sensible location, especially for Canada. Trucks coming from Detroit have to endure 16 red lights before connecting with a major highway.

For years, any new crossing was stymied by Matty Moroun, the billionaire who owns the Ambassador Bridge.

But now both governments have agreed to build one, now known as the New International Trade Crossing. They aren’t quite home free yet. Washington has yet to agree to fund the customs plaza needed for what will be a major outpost between two nations.

And the consul told me Michigan has not yet finished buying and assembling all the parcels of land needed for the bridge’s footprint on the American side. Canada needs this bridge so much that it has agreed to foot all the upfront costs.

Michigan, in turn, will pay them back years from now out of the state’s share of the tolls. But legally, our state has to buy the land, which is in Delray, a rundown neighborhood a couple of miles south of the current bridge.

However, there are hangups. Much of the land is owned by Detroit, and some council members are insisting on a defined package of community benefits.

Clearly, bridges aren’t built in a day. Douglas George is philosophical about this, and says he thinks the new bridge could still be open for business by the target date of 2020.

His father was an attorney in Sarnia, right across the river from Port Huron, and spent something like a quarter-century on a commission striving to get a new bridge built there. If you are a diplomat, it helps to take the long view.

For George, this post is almost a homecoming. Growing up, he came to Detroit every chance he got to see concerts.

The city’s decline saddened him, but he told me yesterday he was happily amazed by how fast things seemed to be turning around.

He hopes that before long, a new generation of Canadian kids will be streaming in to the revitalized city, some of them over a new bridge.

Originally Posted by: Michigan Radio

Editorial: Another step forward on a new bridge

There is progress on the New International Trade Crossing. That bodes well for all of Michigan, the U.S. and Canada, as a more efficient crossing will benefit business on both sides of the border.

Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced a new authority to oversee construction of the bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will be international. Snyder named three members at a news conference this week.

The Moroun family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge, have fought relentlessly to block the bridge project, but their efforts — including an attempt to pass a 2012 ballot proposal that would have hampered the bridge project — have failed.

While there remains a question of federal funding to construct a customs plaza in Detroit, Snyder and Raitt said that would not stand in the way of efforts to begin construction of the bridge, called by Snyder the New International Trade Crossing.

One hurdle still ahead: U.S. government officials have not yet committed funds for a customs plaza needed as part of the project. Michigan’s congressional delegation should keep that need top-of-mind — and Michigan voters should question candidates about it this fall.

The Detroit-Windsor crossing is one of the nation’s busiest. Automakers and other manufacturers, as well as major business groups, former governors from both political parties and numerous others support the new bridge. Canadian officials want a better route than the existing bridge provides for traffic on their side of the crossing. Business wants better efficiency. And many note that private ownership of a major international bridge is a risk to national security.

Snyder has kept this project moving. Now the Congressional delegation must do its part.

An LSJ editorial

Snyder, Canadian transportation minister vow new bridge will be built

Canada’s top transportation minister vowed today that construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor won’t be stopped by a dispute with the U.S. federal government over paying for a new customs plaza on the Detroit side.

The U.S. government so far has failed to commit to funding the U. S. Customs plaza for the New International Trade Crossing bridge between Detroit and Windsor, set to open in 2020. Failing to agree to pay for the roughly $250-million facility where incoming trucks would be inspected by U.S. Customs workers has been a sore point in the ongoing bridge saga.

At a news conference this morning to announce the members of two bodies that will build and oversee the bridge project, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said that the dispute over paying for the plaza on the Detroit end of the new bridge will be resolved.

“Our government won’t let financing disagreements get in the way of construction time lines,” Raitt, flanked by Gov. Rick Snyder, said. “We are going to be building a bridge, and we are going to stick to our time lines. … It’s time to get the work done and financing arrangements in our point of view will not hold up our construction time lines.”

At the news conference, Raitt and Snyder announced the appointments to the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, a Canadian entity that will build the span, and to the joint International Authority, which will oversee the project.

The WDBA will hire a private contractor or team of contractors to perform the actual construction work. The International Authority will settle disputes on procurement of materials and hiring of workers, tasks that are supposed to be split equally between Canadian and U.S. firms and workers.

The three Michigan representatives appointed by Snyder to the six-member International Authority were 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.

Snyder, echoing his earlier comments on the matter of the customs plaza funding , chided the U.S. federal government for its failure to commit to funding the facility.

“That’s something I’m going to continue to have strong and ongoing dialogue with the United States government,” he told the news conference on the Canadian waterfront. “The government of Canada has been fabulous. To be blunt, I think the U.S. federal government needs to do a better job.” To the extent that the U.S. government doesn’t want to pay for its own facility, Snyder said, “I don’t believe that’s a rational position to take, and I think it’s something that’s inappropriate.”

But both Raitt and Snyder emphasized the positive today. Snyder noted that the bridge project has received multiple permits and approvals in the past year, and the appointments announced today will allow the project to move ahead even faster.

“We’re on a time line to get this bridge built,” Snyder said.

The bridge project, known as the New International Trade Crossing in Michigan and as the Detroit River International Crossing in Canada, will cost about $950 million. Because Michigan legislators have blocked any state funding for the project, Canadian is fronting all the costs except for the customs plaza and will be paid back through future tolls.

Some observers have suggested that Canada might even pay upfront for the customs plaza, too, and be repaid through tolls, but Michigan officials, both within the Snyder administration and among the state’s congressional delegation, are working hard to convince U.S. officials to pay for the customs plaza.

They see it as a matter of fairness for the U.S. to pay for its own facility. And they worry that if Canada has to pay even for a U.S. customs plaza, negotiating with Canada over other issues will become more difficult.

With a planned opening in 2020, the new bridge project remains in the early stages of planning and organization. The first visible signs that something is happening may occur later this year as the Michigan Department of Transportation, using Canadian money advanced for the project, begins buying up the hundreds of parcels in southwest Detroit’s Delray district needed for the bridge approaches and customs plaza.

Originally posted by John Gallagher in the Detroit Free Press

Gov. Rick Snyder announces appointments to move international bridge project forward

Gov. Rick Snyder announces appointments to move international bridge project forward
Authority to oversee New International Trade Crossing development

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Windsor, ON – Today, the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Canada’s Minister of Transport and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced appointments to the International Authority which will oversee the construction of the new publicly-owned bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.

Mrs. Kristine Burr and Mrs. Geneviève Gagnon have been appointed by Canada and Mr. Michael D. Hayes, Mrs. Birgit M. Klohs and Mr. Matt Rizik have been appointed by Michigan. Mrs. Burr will also serve as the Chairperson of the International Authority. A third Canadian member will be selected by the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) in the near future.

Minister Raitt also announced today appointments to the Board of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.  Mr. Michele “Michael” Cautillo P.Eng., M.Eng., has been appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mark McQueen as Chairperson of the Board of Directors, and Mr. William Graham and Mrs. Caroline Mulroney Lapham as Directors.

Quick Facts

  • The International Authority was created pursuant to the Crossing Agreement signed by Canada and Michigan on June 15, 2012. Comprised of six members with equal representation from Canada and Michigan, the International Authority will oversee and approve key steps in the P3 procurement process for the new Windsor-Detroit bridge crossing. It will also monitor the compliance of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority with the Crossing Agreement signed by Canada and Michigan.
  • The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority was created in 2012 and is Canada’s newest Crown Corporation.  The WDBA will manage the procurement process for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new bridge through a public-private partnership (P3). It will also oversee the work of the public-private partnership, manage the concession agreement and payments, and set and collect tolls.
  • The project is known as the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) in Canada and the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) in Michigan. The project consists of four major infrastructure components: the bridge, the Canadian port of entry (POE), the U.S. POE, and an interchange connection to Interstate 75 in Michigan.

Quotes

“These appointments to the International Authority and the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority are a significant step forward towards building a new publicly-owned bridge between Canada and the United States. These individuals bring strong leadership skills, engineering, legal and financial expertise, and wide-ranging business experience to the International Authority and the WDBA board. We will benefit greatly from their knowledge and commitment to community service.”

The Honourable Lisa Raitt

Minister of Transport
“This milestone is the latest achievement in an exciting project that will create short- and long-term jobs, energize the economy and enhance security for Michigan and Canada. The International Authority has a leadership role in driving the New International Trade Crossing forward. We’re fortunate to have such talented, dedicated appointees who are willing to serve. I am confident they will provide the expertise and guidance that will make the NITC a shining example of international cooperation and economic success.”

Rick Snyder

Governor of Michigan

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Originally posted at: Michigan.gov