Kelly McParland: Obama punishes Canada by penalizing Americans

By Kelly McParland

Canada appears to have sunk pretty low on the priority list of Barack Obama’s White House. The President stressed in his State of the Union message that he intends to bypass the sclerosis in the U.S. Congress by making executive decisions that don’t require congressional approval. Yet he has two major Canadian infrastructure projects he could approve, and instead they’re lying around crying for action.

The recent report issued by Mr. Obama’s State Department made clear that the Keystone XL pipeline project carries no serious threat to the environment, and would produce much-needed jobs for Americans. Yet the White House quickly said Mr. Obama won’t be rushed into a decision, even though he’s already had six years to consider the proposal.

More perplexing is his refusal to help speed along the new bridge that will cross between Detroit and Windsor, eliminating bottlenecks, easing trade and contributing to the recovery of the U.S. economy. Canada is paying for nine-tenths of the $2.1 billion project. Canada will pay for preparatory costs, land acquisition and construction, recouping the U.S. share later, from tolls. The only expense for the U.S. is an estimated $200 million for a Customs plaza on their side.

Yet Mr. Obama has been stalling. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vented his frustration to the Detroit Free Press in January, complaining that “the U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don’t think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government.”

Asked whom the federal officials want to pay for the customs plaza where incoming vehicles would be checked by federal workers, Snyder said, “Apparently, someone other than them.”

There’s a suspicion that Washington’s tardiness is related to the efforts of local businessman Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge and is upset at having to face new competition. Maroun has launched a storm of legal challenges and spent heavily on Washington lobbyists and Michigan Republicans in Congress. But Obama is a Democrat, and Congressional Republicans give him nothing but grief anyway, so it’s curious if he’s allowing that to influence his decision. Mr. Snyder is also a Republican, also a businessman, and he’s avidly in favour of the project. He’s also seeking re-election in the U.S. mid-term elections; perhaps the president feels that denying the governor a high-profile job-creating project will weaken his chances and give a Democrat a chance.

In the process, however, he’s also weakening Detroit’s recovery efforts. It’s no secret that the city is in dire condition. It filed for bankruptcy in July — the biggest municipal bankruptcy ever — and is being run by an “emergency manager” appointed by Snyder.  The neighbourhood in which the U.S. Customs plaza would be built is, according to the Free Press, one of the most distressed of the city’s neighbourhoods, an area of abandoned homes and empty streets. The plaza would help clear away the rubble, give value to otherwise unwanted land, create jobs in a high unemployment area and end the waiting among remaining property owners who have been left dangling by the uncertainty. As Snyder noted, delay won’t necessarily block the project, it will just make progress unnecessarily slower and more difficult.

The Customs plaza, it hardly needs saying, is needed so officials on the U.S. side of the border can do their job. It’s not some exotic demand dreamed up by officials in Ottawa. There is some talk that U.S. Customs officers could always work on the Canadian side of the border for a while, but, as Canada’s outgoing consul-general in Detroit noted, suggesting that Canada build a home in Detroit for U.S. Customs is just “silly.”

From the National Post

 

The Star’s view: No need to panic about DRIC

What a difference a day makes. On Sunday people were in a tizzy over the U.S. government’s failure to commit to a new border inspection plaza on the Michigan side of the Detroit River.

Canadian Consul General Roy Norton, who is leaving Detroit for Chicago, wanted to make a last-ditch pitch to fast track the $2.5 billion Detroit River International Crossing. That meant pushing President Barack Obama to go on the record saying the feds would fork out $250 million for a customs plaza on U.S. soil.

You could understand why Norton was so insistent. Gov. Rick Snyder had wound people up two weeks earlier, when he let it be known he was exasperated with the way Washington was dragging its heels.

“The U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don’t think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government,” he told the Detroit Free Press editorial board. “In the meantime, I wouldn’t want to see the rest of the bridge held up over what you might describe as a somewhat difficult-to-understand attitude.”

Fair comment, considering every international crossing in the world is responsible for its own customs operation. And, since Canada is paying for “fifteen-sixteenths” of this project and buying up land on both sides of the border, expecting the Americans to throw in a few million dollars to fund their own little piazza doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

By Monday, Snyder was telling people to cool their jets and not get too worked up about the situation.

Perhaps he knew that his grumpy, off-the-cuff comment had gone viral and threatened to derail any goodwill that might exist with Washington.

Besides, the U.S. government had already agreed to pay to staff booths at the DRIC bridge (imagine that) and it was entirely possible Obama assumed everyone knew infrastructure funding was a no-brainer. The two went hand-in-hand. Or something like that.

We think something must be in the works, or Snyder spokesman Ken Silfven wouldn’t have scrambled to defuse the situation after Norton went said Canada would proceed with the project regardless of what the U.S. did or didn’t do, or how much they dilly-dallied. That included making land purchases stateside.

It was Silfven’s job to temper Snyder’s comments and the impact they had, especially when it came to Canadian media outlets.

“We did feel a need to make sure this is on Washington’s radar screen and that it gets the attention it deserves, which is why the governor made his recent comments,” Silfven said by way of explanation. “But we’re confident that the message has been received and that the issue will be resolved. Contrary to some reports, this isn’t dire.”

You could have fooled almost … everyone. Still, Snyder is right. The presidential permit was signed by Obama last year, and people take for granted that he’ll be long gone from office by the time the next significant step forward is taken.

But the important thing is that the project will not take a step back, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. It’s too late for that, despite Matty Moroun’s effort to derail DRIC at every opportunity.

At the end of the day, Washington will pay a paltry $250 million for a customs booth. How could Obama argue with that, when the Canadian government is paying $2.5 billion for everything else? That would be insanity.

From the Windsor Star

Vander Doelen: Canada’s Bridge To Detroit

By Chris Vander Doelen

Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general in Detroit, caused an amusing stir over the new Windsor-Detroit bridge before heading off to his new diplomatic posting in Chicago.

If you support the idea of a new publicly owned crossing between Canada and the U.S., Norton’s mild comments were bland and commonsense. But if you’re against a new bridge they might have been upsetting.

Those funding delays in Washington, which are said to be dragging its feet on funding a $220 million traffic plaza on the U.S. side of the project, don’t mean a thing, Norton told the Detroit Free Press.

Canada intends to start buying the land for the $2.2-billion bridge this spring anyway, Norton said. And it will do so even if the Obama administration doesn’t come through with its share of the money in time, which Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder has worried about in public.

Canada will simply foot the entire bill until Washington does what it’s promised, Norton pledged. As he pointed out, the Canadian side is already paying for “fifteen-sixteenths” of the cost of the project up front. (The American side will pay back its half with tolls over the next few decades).

Financing the whole ball of wax up front, including the U.S. plaza and approach ramps, wouldn’t hurt us enough to notice. In fact Canada would be delighted to pay it all and cut out some of the negotiating hassles.

But I’ve been informed by people close to the talks that Canada would never be allowed to own the U.S. side of the plaza for important legal reasons. So that’s out.

After Norton’s comments, you could almost hear the air going out of the bridge’s opponents one more time. Norton’s comments went international, making the news from Washington to Ottawa and points afar.

Lots of business people are keeping a close eye on the project. Some are angling to get a piece of the construction contracts. Others are eying investment opportunities that will materialize once traffic starts moving faster through Windsor and Detroit.

And some people simply want to see it fail.

The “bridge to nowhere” crowd – and their Canadian cousins, the “road to nowhere” club, which opposes construction of the Herb Gray Parkway – are bitterly disappointed at any suggestion that the project is really going ahead. So Norton’s comments sent them into an amusing tizzy.

The anti-bridgers (Bridge deniers? Crossing skeptics?) seem to hope that the lack of visible action on the ground means serious problems must be hidden behind the scenes. Could the bridge be doomed after all? they say hopefully to anyone who will listen.

No. From what I’ve been hearing since autumn, preparatory work on the New International Trade Crossing has been moving along well since the project was green-lighted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama’s office last year.

However, the work so far consists almost entirely of the laying of legal groundwork, which can’t be photographed and doesn’t make news. You can’t do a good TV standup in front of a legal brief or an empty office.

Remember all the lengthy delays that plagued the @HGParkway? (as it’s known on Twitter). Before serious construction started on that project, the delays dragged on for years. The critics also hoped aloud then that it wouldn’t go ahead.

It takes months of legal work to form the necessary bi-national corporations involved in an endeavor such as this one. It takes months to draw up the agreements, months to hire the staff.

After that there will be months more spent choosing contractors, then architects and engineers. Then months more delay lining up equipment, ordering custom steel shapes. (From China! The deniers claim. Not true. It will be North American).

And that doesn’t even include the time involved in purchasing and expropriating 1,000 separate parcels of land, some of which belong to Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and family.

You know what that means: lawsuits on top of lawsuits once the expropriation wheels start turning. (In the U.S., they call expropriation “condemnation”).

Moroun once fought a minor expropriation on his bridge plaza for 32 years in the courts. So you know what his people will do when land he bought in Delray to block competitors is taken to build a larger new bridge.

Before the steel starts going up we’re going to hear many more claims that the NITC project is delayed, or in limbo – or that they’re shocked the project is still alive.

Prediction: after the bridge is under construction in 2017 or so, the same people will probably claim there are serious deficiencies in the footings and the safety of the structure.

After it’s open in 2020 they’ll claim it should never have been built. After it’s a year old they’ll claim traffic loads aren’t meeting projections, the bridge is losing money and the federal loans won’t be paid off.

In advance of all those wild claims to come, let me thank the deniers now for providing us media folk with such excellent news fodder stretching so far into the future.

And I’ll see you on the bridge.

From the Windsor Star

Trucker queue-jumping impeding border access

Truckers trying to look for speedy access to the border have been holding up traffic generally along Huron Church Road, sometimes considerably in terms of distance and time.

Most trucks heading to the border stay in the centre of three north bound lanes leading to the Ambassador Bridge.

But when traffic builds, often in late weekday afternoons, it becomes a frequent occurrence for truckers to jump the queue, cutting into the lane beside the median used predominantly by regular motorists, and which leads directly to the Ambassador Bridge ramp north of College Ave.

That has resulted in general back-ups along Huron Church because truckers who get as far as the bridge find they have to cut back into the centre truck lane, and sometimes other truckers don’t want to let them in.

When several trucks get behind one another trying to do this it can create traffic jams and prevent regular motorists from accessing the bridge, sometimes taking extra minutes or as long as half an hour.

On one recent Tuesday afternoon this queue-jumping ritual went on for hours right through to mid-evening.

It’s a situation acknowledged by police and others who follow border issues.

Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West and the Official Opposition border critic, said while it might appear that trucks are mandated to stay in the centre lane it’s more by custom and etiquette than anything else.

Masse’s office checked with Windsor police and found that while “the signs say to go into the middle lane they (truckers) don’t necessarily have to.”

Masse’s office has fielded calls from irate motorists complaining about the queue-jumping.

He suggested truckers are probably “pretty well aware” of the fact that using the centre lane is not mandatory.

“I don’t have any personal knowledge of this but I’m willing to bet that the truckers all know that,” he said.

Masse agreed the queue-jumping “does affect the flow of traffic.”

He said he personally tries to avoid Huron Church Rd.

When driving his daughter to play hockey in LaSalle “I actually go all the way up to Totten and find that crossing at the light where the beer store is,” he said.

Masse said getting the Herb Gray Parkway border route completed as quickly as possible “is so important because it’s bad – the trucks are really up” in number because the economy has improved.

Bill Anderson, director of the University of Windsor’s Cross-Border Institute, said the traffic issue probably “reflects the inherent problem of having just one lane for trucks to pass through the most important link in the largest bilateral trade flow on earth.”

He said it also “reinforced the need to complete the second crossing.”

Anderson called the situation “ironic.

“While the increased traffic on Huron Church is an inconvenience for those of us travelling in cars, it is also a positive sign that the economy is picking up.”

A representative of the Ontario Trucking Association did not return messages seeking comment.

From the Windsor Ontario News

Canada’s bridge over troubled waters

At first blush, the government of Canada is acting like a clumsy, overeager suitor in its efforts to get a new bridge built across the Detroit River. Already on the hook for almost the entire $2-billion cost of the link, Ottawa has now said, to keep the project moving forward, it is going to start buying the necessary land on the Michigan side of the river. And that’s the right move. The Harper government recognizes the project’s critical value and importance: This is the world’s busiest border crossing. It’s Canada’s most vital trade link, and it’s overcrowded. A standoffish U.S. federal government is coming off badly, and holding things up.

Michigan and Ottawa signed an agreement for the building of the New International Trade Crossing in 2012, under which Canada will pay virtually all the costs – bridge construction, on-ramp construction and land acquisition. Washington is paying only for a customs plaza on the U.S. side. But this isn’t a case of Canadian taxpayers subsidizing Americans: The bridge is supposed to be user-pay. Ottawa will recoup its costs through toll collection.

It’s up to the Michigan Department of Transportation to handle the land acquisitions for the customs plaza and be reimbursed by Canada. But a bizarre reluctance on the part of Washington to budget for the customs plaza was putting the project’s schedule in jeopardy. Michigan can’t go ahead with the land purchases until there is money for the plaza, so Ottawa is stepping in to buy the land directly and keep the bridge’s planned 2020 opening on track.

A new bridge is critical to the growing amount of trade moving across the Detroit River every day. Ottawa understands this; so does Michigan and – in theory, at least – Washington. The U.S. State Department and the White House have both given final approvals for the NICT’s construction. The failure of Washington to see this deal through is reaching absurd levels, but in some ways it’s not surprising. Canada, the smaller party in this dance, is proportionately more dependent on this trade link. A new bridge isn’t a priority in Washington. In Ottawa, it’s urgent and should be.

From The Globe and Mail

Consul: Canada to buy Detroit land for new bridge

DETROIT (AP) — The Canadian government plans to start buying land in Detroit for the U.S. portion of a new bridge linking the nations, a Canadian official said in a report published Sunday, a move that bypasses opponents of the project and comes as the U.S. government hasn’t yet allocated money.

The $2 billion-plus project to add a second span across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is simply too important to delay, outgoing Canadian Consul General Roy Norton in Detroit told the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/1eiSeKP ).

Canada is paying most of the project’s cost on both sides of the border. It plans to recoup the cost with tolls traveling in both directions. Officials have said they hope to open the New International Trade Crossing in 2020.

“We’re about to proceed with land purchases some time in the next few months, and we’re going to do that whether there’s been an indication from the U.S. government on a commitment to the customs plaza or not,” Norton said. “That involves a little bit of risk on our part, obviously, but we’re so confident that this ultimately will be built that it’s prudent to do that.”

Last month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder complained about the Obama administration’s failure to commit $250 million for a border inspection plaza.

“The U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don’t think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government,” Snyder said. “In the meantime, I wouldn’t want to see the rest of the bridge held up over what you might describe as a somewhat difficult-to-understand attitude.”

Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has been one of the project’s fiercest and most determined opponents, proposing the addition of a span to his own bridge.

If Canada’s land purchases begin this year, officials say they hope most of the about 1,000 parcels will be acquired by the end of 2015. Condemnation proceedings on parcels where owners refuse to sell may stretch into 2016, but that wouldn’t necessarily delay construction work since Michigan law lets the government take possession and settle on the sale price later in court.

Ultimately, the U.S. government should come across with the money for its side of the plaza, Norton said.

“For people to muse about Canada paying for it really is preposterous,” he said. “We’re paying for fifteen-sixteenths of this project. It’s silly.”

___

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

Originally posted in Seattle Pi

Ambassador Bridge Hits Another Snag

By Maureen Revait

The Ambassador Bridge Company’s request to demolish 31 homes on Windsor’s west end has been denied.

Officials with the bridge company were hoping the city’s Property Standards Committee would reverse an earlier order to have the homes repaired and restored to their original state.

Lawyer for the Canadian Transportation Company, which is an arm of the bridge company, Larry Lowenstein says they will consider appealing the decision to the Superior Court. “The bridge is regulated by Canada Border Services, they have a master plan which looks to the removal of these houses so that the CTC can properly repair and maintain the bridge. That’s a matter between CTC and the CBSA they don’t have a problem dealing with one another really the city has no business inserting itself into this.”

The bridge company bought the homes years ago in an effort to twin the current span but have been met with several roadblocks. The city is currently appealing a previous decision by the Property Standards Committee to allow the bridge company to demolish 75 homes on Indian Rd. that sit outside the designated heritage district.

Originally posted in Blackburn News

Snyder, Canadian leaders urge Washington to fund DRIC customs plaza

By Dave Battagello

Construction of a $1 billion downriver bridge has hit another hurdle and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has lashed out at decision makers in Washington for being slow to sign off on $250 million required to build a U.S. customs plaza for the crossing.

“The U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don’t think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government,” Snyder told the Detroit Free Press during an editorial board meeting on Friday.

When asked who U.S. federal officials expect to pay for the customs plaza, Snyder responded: “Apparently, someone other than them.”

Michigan was responsible for funding a toll plaza in Detroit and roads connecting the DRIC bridge, but given the state’s economic woes the Canadian government under thesigned agreement for the Detroit River International Crossing has agreed to cover those costs — expected to be around $550 million.

The entire crossing project, including plazas and feeder roads in Detroit is anticipated to cost close to $2.5 billion.

The private sector — under a public private partnership — is anticipated to be splitting the rest of the costs with Canada, aside from the customs plaza. Both the Canadian government and private partner are projected to recoup those costs through tolls.

The U.S. government’s sole cost is the bill for construction of the customs inspection plaza and buildings on the Detroit side. The government has already agreed to pay for staffing at the DRIC bridge, but has not yet agreed to pay for infrastructure.

The project falls under the budget for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Once funds are budgeted, construction of customs infrastructure will be carried out by the U.S. General Services Administration.

The Obama administration’s budget is scheduled to be tabled in late February or early March.

If funding for the customs plaza for the DRIC bridge is not included it could delay the project up to another year, unless funds are approved under a special order outside of the budget.

“There’s some time to find a resolution,” Snyder told the Free Press. “In the meantime, I wouldn’t want to see the rest of the bridge held up over what you might describe as a somewhat difficult-to-understand attitude.”

Snyder’s office, the Department of Homeland Security and General Services Administration did not respond to messages from The Star on Monday, Martin Luther King holiday in the U.S.

The Obama administration gave the green light to the DRIC bridge project last June by issuing a presidential permit.

Job postings for a new CEO for the project and chairman of the planned binational authority to oversee the crossing were recently issued on the Canadian side, with hopes to fill those positions within the next couple of months.

Engineering drawings and early environmental protection work in Windsor has already started with next steps to include property acquisition and expropriation in Delray,  the industrial community in southwest Detroit where the bridge will land. That process is expected to begin within the next couple of months.

Canada’s Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt met with Snyder last Thursday when she attened his annual state of the state address in Lansing. She will travel to Washington in the coming weeks to discuss the DRIC bridge and other federal Canada-U.S. transportation issues.

“A new bridge at Windsor-Detroit is needed for growing trade and traffic at the busiest Canada-U.S. commercial border crossing,” said Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada. “This project will create thousands of jobs and opportunities on both sides of the border. It will also provide a much-needed crossing alternative at the busiest Canada-U.S. commercial border crossing and is expected to create 10,000 to 15,000 jobs in Ontario and Michigan.

“Our embassy in Washington and Consulate in Detroit continue to meet with U.S. government officials and members of Congress. The Minister of Transport, and other ministers, have raised this issue with their U.S. counterparts. We are hopeful the U.S. government will ultimately fund the U.S. Port of Entry and meet its obligations in this binational partnership to build a new crossing at one of North America’s most important gateways.”

Canadian Consul General Roy Norton believes common sense will prevail in Washington and the DRIC bridge will open as scheduled in late 2019 or early 2020.

“There is not yet a commitment from the Obama administration to pay for the U.S. customs plaza, but it’s not catastrophic,” he said. “Other work is proceeding, engineering drawings are being completed, land assembly will soon commence in the first half of this year.

“It’s not yet a source of delay, but will be if sometime this year there is not (budget) confirmation.”

Canada is poised to launch a bidding process in the private sector to find a partner to build the bridge, but that’s impossible until the customs plaza issue in Detroit is resolved, Norton said.

“The governor is hoping by increasing pressure on this he can draw people’s attention to the issue,” he said. “We are similarly concerned and frustrated, but also optimistic the U.S. government (will approve spending on the plaza).”

Canada has no plans to resolve the issue by offering to also pay for the U.S. customs plaza, Norton said.

“That is pretty unreasonable,” he said. “We are already paying for 15/16ths of the project. U.S. customs is a homeland security function.”

Even if Canada wanted to pay, there is no extra money sitting around in Ottawa to cover those costs, said MP Brian Masse (NDP — Windsor West).

“We all know Ottawa is broke,” he said. “The problem is, based on my experiences, Washington is worse.

“We knew (DRIC) was going to be a roller-coaster to get it done. Still, I’m confident we can get through this. This is one of the largest projects in North America. There is too much at stake here. When push comes to shove my expectation is the U.S. will contribute to this.”

Originally posted in The Windsor Star

U.S. funding holdout threatens Detroit River bridge

By Adrian Morrow

A long-awaited new bridge from Ontario to Michigan could be delayed yet again if the U.S. government doesn’t soon commit to paying its share of the cost.

That’s the stark warning from officials on both sides of the international border, who say there is no time to waste building a vital new crossing for the two countries’ busiest land trade route.

The Canadian government is paying the lion’s share of the $2.1-billion it will cost to complete the New International Trade Crossing over the Detroit River, which will relieve bottlenecks at the aging Ambassador Bridge. The only portion that the U.S. federal government must cover is a $250-million customs plaza on the Michigan side.

So far, engineering work is proceeding on the project but, if the funds for the plaza are not allocated within the next few months, Ottawa cannot move forward with the next phase and find a company to build the bridge itself. Part of the tender will require the builder to put some of its own money into the project, to be recouped by tolls.

“There has to be traffic for there to be tolls there. There has to be a customs plaza before there can be traffic,” said Roy Norton, Canada’s consul-general in Detroit, in an interview Sunday. “Until you get clarity or confirmation of [the U.S. government’s] intentions, there is concern.”

His comments echo those of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who blasted Washington in a meeting with the Detroit Free Press’s editorial board Friday.

“The U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don’t think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government,” the paper quoted him as saying. “I wouldn’t want to see the rest of the bridge held up over what you might describe as a somewhat difficult-to-understand attitude.”

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, which would be responsible for the plaza, did not respond to The Globe and Mail’s questions about the status of funding Sunday.

A spokeswoman for Transport Canada said diplomats in Washington and Detroit have been meeting with American officials and members of Congress on the matter, and Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt has raised it with her U.S. counterpart.

“We are hopeful that the U.S. government will ultimately fund the U.S. Port of Entry and meet its obligations in this bi-national partnership to build a new crossing at one of North America’s most important gateways,” Andrea Moritz wrote in an e-mail.

The customs plaza is only the latest bump in the long road to completing the span. The company that owns the Ambassador, controlled by Michigan businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family, has fought tooth and nail to stop the construction of the competing crossing. The Free Press, citing financial disclosure records, reported Mr. Moroun’s company spent $180,000 on Washington lobbyists and that he contributed to the campaigns of Michigan congressmen.

A spokesman for his company did not respond to a request for comment.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has endorsed the bridge plan in principal, but has not yet asked Congress to allocate the funds. Mr. Norton said the coming U.S. federal budget, likely to be tabled in March, would be a good opportunity for Mr. Obama to do this.

And if he doesn’t, the economic consequences could be dire.

“It would be calamitous to industry and workers on both sides of the river if the Ambassador were to fail,” Mr. Norton said. “There is no time to delay.”

From The Globe And Mail

Mich. Governor says Washington is stalling on a key part of new U.S.-Canada bridge

From the AP

Plans for a new bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada are moving more slowly than anticipated, partly because Washington doesn’t seem to want to pay for a customs plaza on the American side of the span, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said.

The bridge, one of Snyder’s most significant public projects since he took office in 2011, would compete with the privately owned Ambassador Bridge and take vehicles between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Canadian government, which believes another bridge would improve trade, has agreed to pay for most of it and recoup money later through tolls. But the U.S. needs to pay for a $250 million border inspection plaza.

“The U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don’t think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government,” Governor Snyder told the Detroit Free Press in a report published Saturday.

He said there’s still time to solve the problem since land acquisition and design work must be completed first.

“In the meantime, I wouldn’t want to see the rest of the bridge held up over what you might describe as a somewhat difficult-to-understand attitude,” the governor said.

Snyder said inaction in Washington is “not totally inconsistent with other behaviour out of Washington.”

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“There’s been no significant progress,” Roy Norton, Canada’s representative in Detroit, told the Free Press. “Engineering studies are virtually complete; land assembly on the Michigan side will get underway in 2014. … But we can’t call for bidders until there’s a commitment to build the U.S. plaza.”

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun vigorously opposes the new bridge.

In addition to campaign donations and lobbying in Lansing and Washington, Moroun’s lawyers have filed lawsuits challenging the project in U.S. and Canadian courts.

From The Globe And Mail