State chambers urge swift action to resolve funding for new Detroit-Windsor bridge customs facility

State Chambers of Commerce from across the U.S. including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, have all signed a letter to the President and Congress, urging federal funding for the U.S. Customs Plaza for the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

These states represent more than 40 percent of the U.S. population and all have signed the letter regarding the importance of the bridge project, the economic impact it will have on businesses and their employees in their respective states, and the importance of reliable transportation infrastructure between the U.S. and Canada at the Detroit-Windsor border.

Click here to read the letter.

Podcast: Bridge to Canada takes a back seat to politics in Lansing

By Stateside Staff

What’s up with the building of the new bridge between Detroit and Windsor?

It appears that the bridge is taking a back seat to politics in Lansing.

As the Detroit News editorial team wrote, “Gov. Rick Snyder should not still be herding cats to get the new bridge build across the Detroit river.”

Much of the opposition to the new bridge continues from Republican lawmakers, even after it was assumed that a new bridge was set to go.

So, now what?

Republican state senators have put in language in a transportation bill that would stop the state from purchasing land for the new bridge.

John Pappageorge is a Republican state senator from Troy, and he joined us on Stateside.

Click here to listen to the entire podcast.

Originally posted by Michigan Radio.

Detroit-Windsor bridge debate rages on

By Metro Times staff

Eight years ago in Metro Times: How’s this for familiar territory: MT reports that Delray residents are hopeful that Canadian and U.S. officials will OK a span, much like Matty Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor and Detroit via an anchorage in Delray. But Moroun was looking to build a second bridge of his own with the support of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The story was that a second bridge was going to be built, no matter what — but residents wanted that bridge to be MDOT-controlled so they could rely on an agency responsive to community concerns. To this day, that second bridge is still being debated. Gov. Rick Snyder is backing a Detroit-Windsor bridge in collaboration with Canada dubbed the New International Trade Crossing, while Moroun continues to press for a second span of his own.

Originally posted by the Metro Times

The Moroun misinformation campaign continues

In Matt Moroun’s latest editorial, he claims that “…the Ambassador Bridge was built and has been maintained without ever taking taxpayer assistance.”

FACT: $230 million taxpayer dollars were used on the Gateway Project that serves the congested Ambassador Bridge and the Federal Government paid to build and continues to pay to maintain the customs plaza at the bridge.

Matt Moroun Editorial:

In the latest news about the New International Trade Crossing government bridge proposal, taxpayers have learned that the proposal requires $250 million for an inspection plaza, as well as the Michigan Transportation Department’s resources for condemning land.

Unfortunately, the Detroit News editorial “Bridge fight has gone on too long” has, not so subtly, chosen to blame these government bridge shortcomings on the private sector and the Ambassador Bridge.

Our company should not be blamed for these fatal flaws. Unlike the government bridge, the Ambassador Bridge was built and has been maintained without ever taking taxpayer assistance. Our position that the government bridge is wrong-minded has not changed. It can’t even pay for itself.

Everyone has heard Gov. Rick Snyder say that his bridge does not need taxpayer money or resources. Now that it does, that is not our fault.

Also, it is not the fault of the Legislature, which has consistently restricted expenditures of money and resources for the government bridge for many years. In fact, until now, Snyder has said that he didn’t even need the Legislature in order to build the government bridge. However, this hasn’t stopped some in the media from insinuating that if a legislator does not want to spend money and resources on the NITC that it must be because of campaign contributions rather than fiscal responsibility — or even reliance on the governor’s word.

The “flip-flop” on taxpayer dollars and risk should be the story.

Matt Moroun, vice chairman,

Ambassador Bridge

Originally posted in the  Detroit News

 

Canada could foot the bill for U.S. customs plaza

The Globe and Mail

Steven Chase

Canada is open to funding or hosting a U.S. customs plaza, a sticking point in efforts to construct a vital second bridge between Windsor and Detroit, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says.

The Detroit International Trade Crossing is a top infrastructure priority for Ottawa, which is trying to broaden Canada’s most vital trade conduit with the United States.

Ms. Raitt said Canada’s strongly preferred option is that the United States fund its own custom plaza.

“But this is a vitally important project for us and I would encourage us to have open dialogue with the United States on any of these options, quite frankly, to make it go forward,” she told a Canadian American Border Trade Alliance conference in Ottawa Monday.

Canada has put up nearly all the public money necessary for the project and the U.S. federal government appears to be balking at paying the cost of a $250-million U.S. customs structure on the American side. U.S. President Barack Obama’s $3.9-trillion 2015 budget sent to Congress in March failed to allocate funds for it.

Ms. Raitt said the future of this plaza is a hot topic between both countries right now. “Officials are having discussions, politicians are having discussions, the ambassador to the U.S. from Canada is having discussions, all on this area. This is a very important topic for us,” she said.

The bridge will be financed and built by a private contractor – yet to be selected – but Canada is shouldering the majority of upfront costs to build related infrastructure, such as extension roads approaching the bridge. This reflects the fact the deal was arranged over the wishes of the Michigan legislature. Legislative supporters of the existing Detroit-Windsor crossing, the Ambassador Bridge, repeatedly opposed the project and took action to ensure the government of Michigan could not spend money on the project or collect tolls.

Canada will be repaid for covering much of the U.S. share of infrastructure through toll revenues.

Ms. Raitt said she believes it would be a first if the United States left it to Canada to fund the American customs structure.

“This has never happened before – in terms of the United States not paying for their own U.S. customs plaza,” she said Monday. “We’ve made that point very strongly at all of our levels of engagement, all of our levels of engagement – the importance of having the U.S. come to the table.”

The new bridge, currently known as the Detroit River International Crossing or the New International Trade Crossing, will offer an alternative route for trucks at Canada’s busiest commercial border thoroughfare – one that carries one-quarter of the goods traded between Canada and the United States each year.

About $120-billion (U.S.) worth of goods cross the border at the Detroit-Windsor crossing annually, carried mainly by the 2.7 million trucks that cross the existing Ambassador Bridge every year. Truck crossings are expected to more than double by 2035.

A Canadian government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Canada’s willingness to discuss covering the cost of a U.S. customs plaza – or host it – could in fact galvanize Michigan to lobby Washington to pony up the cash or miss out on local economic benefits and jobs of building the structure.

Canada and Ontario have jointly committed $1.4-billion to building a road that will connect Highway 401 to the new bridge. The Herb Gray parkway is expected to be finished this year.

Ms. Raitt said the federal government is “redoubling our efforts to open up our lines of communication” with Washington on the customs plaza.

Originally posted by The Globe and Mail

U.S.-Canada Bridge Funding at Risk

By Alistair MacDonald and Matthew Dolan

In a potential blow to a project that would speed traffic over one of the world’s busiest trade routes, the Obama administration is holding back financial support for a customs plaza that is key to the future of a proposed international bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Canada has already pledged to provide or guarantee private funding for most of the project’s expected $3.65 billion cost, including $550 million for a link between the bridge and U.S. Interstate 75. The Obama administration approved construction of the bridge last April, and Ottawa expected Washington to contribute $250 million to build the plaza, without which the bridge wouldn’t be viable.

The bridge has support of Michigan’s Republican governor and its two Democratic senators, among others in the state’s congressional delegation. But U.S. officials say that there are limited infrastructure dollars and competing projects and that private money can step in on this bridge.

“We are increasingly concerned that the administration, by way of inaction, will stand in the way of this national infrastructure project,” said Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business group.

Canada continues to work under the assumption that the U.S. will fund the customs plaza and has heard nothing from the White House to suggest otherwise, said Roy Norton, a Canadian diplomat who until earlier this month was consul general in Detroit.

But U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration have told a group of seven Michigan congressional members and the Canadian government that their agencies don’t have resources available to build the plaza, according to a February letter by those members.

More recently, several administration officials have told Canadian counterparts that Canadian—or private—money should replace the $250 million that Washington was set to spend on the customs plaza, according to people familiar with the matter. The Obama administration argues that those private funds can be recouped through toll revenue, according to a White House budget official. Canada, though, is struggling to accept that U.S. funding may not come, said another person.

Mr. Norton said asking private investors for more money could put them off investing, given that Canada has already talked to them about the $1 billion the current plan calls for them to invest. Canada is talking to the U.S. about ways to spread its $250 million over a number of years, he said.

“Clearly the United States government is responsible for paying for its own Port of Entry and customs plaza,” said a spokeswoman for Lisa Raitt, Canada’s Minister of Transport.

The potential knockback comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and its biggest trading partner, Canada, are already being tested by the yearslong approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline supported by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

More than $130 billion of trade flowed through Detroit into Canada in 2012, the second largest cross-border flow after Laredo, Texas, and Mexico. A new crossing at the Windsor-Detroit border has long been a top priority for Canadian policy makers despite a legal challenge from the owner of the competing Ambassador Bridge.

Canadian exporters complain the current congested span costs the economy billions of dollars in delivery delays and increased compliance burdens.

Lack of U.S. funding for customs plazas has stymied similar projects along its borders. The president’s current budget includes $420 million that could be spent on customs plazas, but the General Services Administration listed only border stations in California and New York, not the proposed bridge in Michigan. A GSA spokesman said Wednesday the agency is working on the issue.

A Transportation Department spokeswoman said money is still being spent on new infrastructure and the department continues to “work with other agencies to move the project forward.”

Michigan officials have ramped up pressure on the White House in recent months.

“We risk further hampering international trade if border capacity is not increased to meet projected growth,” the congressional members wrote in the February letter. Rep. Gary Peters, a Democrat who represents parts of Detroit and its suburbs, introduced a bill that would fund the plaza.

Write to Alistair MacDonald at alistair.macdonald@wsj.com and Matthew Dolan at matthew.dolan@wsj.com

Originally posted in the Wall Street Journal

Groups across U.S. call on Obama to fund Detroit River bridge project

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

A group of 40 construction, business and labor associations from across the border have issued a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama urging him to intervene and resolve the $250 million funding requirement for a customs plaza for the planned Detroit River international bridge.

“The undersigned organizations urge you to swiftly resolve questions surrounding funding for the U.S. Federal Plaza associated with the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario to allow the project to commence,” said the letter.

The groups include the Detroit Regional Chamber, Steel Manufacturers Association, Laborers International Association of North America, American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan and National Association of Manufacturers.

The letter sent Tuesday to The White House notes how the bridge project has been in the planning process for over a decade and calls on the president to “finish the process by definitively resolving the questions surrounding funding” for the customs plaza on the Detroit side.

“Canada has agreed to pay for almost all the $2 billion project; however the United States  has not yet committed to its relatively modest share – $250 million for the Federal Plaza,” the letter said.

The joint letter also touts the economic benefits the bridge project will generate through both construction jobs and permanent jobs related to the Canada-U.S. cross-border movement of goods once completed.

“The long-lasting impact of the project will be felt beyond Michigan, as the entire Midwest relies on reliable transportation infrastructure at the Detroit-Windsor crossing to get goods to market,” the letter said.

Completion of the bridge project is scheduled for 2020, but its supporters fear Washington’s failure to fund the U.S. customs plaza may delay the project.

Concerns have been elevated since the president failed to include funds for the plaza in his proposed U.S. federal budget released a couple of weeks ago.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Editorial: Michigan must keep pushing for new bridge

Obama’s budget, lawsuit latest hurdles

Having failed to stop Gov. Rick Snyder from pursuing plans for the New International Trade Crossing with battles in Michigan, Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun has now turned his efforts to Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, the nation’s capital apparently is proving more fertile ground. Michigan’s members of Congress — from both parties — need to rise up and see to the state’s needs by insisting on federal support for the project.

Moroun, many will recall, succeeded in keeping the Michigan Legislature from approving the New International Trade Crossing, the proposed new span linking Canada and Michigan.

The new project is so desirable to the Canadians that they’ve pledged to loan Michigan the money needed for its share of construction costs and will take payment from proceeds of tolls. Snyder, undeterred when the Legislature refused to support his plan, went around it and kept the project moving with his executive powers, getting federal transportation officials on board.

The Moroun family, owners of the Detroit International Bridge Co., which operates the Ambassador Bridge, then funded a ballot proposal that would have amended the state charter to make building of a bridge with any government support unlikely. Michigan voters resoundingly defeated that.

Now Moroun fights in Washington, and is seeing some success. Most recently, President Barack Obama’s latest budget proposal failed to include funds for the U.S. Customs plaza that is needed as part of the bridge project. And late last week, Moroun asked a federal judge to block the U.S. Coast Guard from issuing a permit that would be needed before construction of a new bridge, arguing that his company’s franchise agreement prohibits any competing span.

The problem there is that the Canadians have turned down Moroun’s plan to put a second span adjacent to his existing bridge. So if the U.S. wants to improvement in crossing delays and national security, NITC is needed. Canadian officials say that one-quarter of all trade between the two nations passes through Detroit and Windsor, the busiest crossing between the nations. Economic development officials project the new bridge could help add 66,000 additional jobs to the state. It’s in the best interests of all but Moroun to have a new bridge. Michigan’s congressional delegation must tackle this challenge.

Originally posted by the Lansing State Journal

Moroun sues to stop the NITC and 10,000 Michigan jobs. When is enough, enough?

Lawyers for Ambassador Bridge owner seek to block rival bridge permit

Written by
Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun asked for a preliminary injunction today to block the U.S. Coast Guard from issuing a permit for a proposed Detroit River span.

Moroun’s lawyers filed the request in U.S. District Court in Washington, saying that it recently came to their attention that the Coast Guard may be intending to issue a navigation permit soon for the New International Trade Crossing.

The lawyers have maintained throughout their years-long legal battle over the proposed bridge that both the U.S. and Canadian governments granted the owners of the Ambassador Bridge an exclusive franchise that can be overridden only by acts of each country’s legislative bodies.

“The basis for the preliminary injunction sought in this motion is simple: The Coast Guard is violating plaintiffs’ franchise rights and constitutional rights, and is causing plaintiffs irreparable harm right now,” the lawyers wrote U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington. “As plaintiffs have shown elsewhere … the construction of (the new bridge) will make it impossible for plaintiffs to build their proposed twin span.”

Moroun has been trying to get permission to build a second span for the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge for some years, but the Canadian government, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and many local corporate leaders have thrown their support behind the NITC.

A hearing on the motion is expected in early April.

Originally posted by the Detroit Free Press

Beckmann: Obama builds Michigan a bridge to nowhere

The Detroit News
Frank Beckmann

In the classic old movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” a group of prisoner-of-war British engineers is forced by Japanese captors during World War II to build a passage over the waterway so the Japanese can strategically move military supplies.

The Brits eventually sabotage the bridge with explosives and near the film’s end, British senior officer Lt. Col. L. Nicholson (played by Alec Guinness), is fatally wounded but as he stumbles toward his death, he falls on the detonator, destroying the bridge, after reciting the memorable line, “What have I done?”

The scene comes to mind as we receive word that President Barack Obama failed to include in this week’s federal budget request the $250 million necessary to build a U.S. customs plaza to allow Canadian-funded construction for “The Bridge on the River Detroit,” aka the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

Ground can’t be broken on Gov. Rick Snyder’s pet project without that federal aid and Snyder has returned from several bridge-related visits to Washington believing federal support was a foregone conclusion for the NITC, which has bipartisan support because of the job growth and increased economic activity the bridge promises to create.

But Obama’s $3.9 trillion budget proposal included no mention of the necessary funding for the NITC customs plaza, leaving the Detroit bridge project in limbo while even the Canadians grow impatient to spend their $2.1 billion to build the span.

Obama found the dollars to fund $115 million in federal government construction projects to build the IRS a new computer center in Detroit — all the better to limit tea party deductions with — and to refurbish the U.S. courthouse here.

He also wants to spend over $300 million to hire an additional 2,000 customs agents, who Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says will ease backups on his state’s Peace Bridge to Canada.

Add in $90 million to continue studying rare isotope beams at Michigan State University and millions more to continue studying alternative-fuel vehicles that Americans don’t want to buy, and you’ve got enough money to pay for the customs plaza and break ground on the NITC.

Don’t get me wrong; all those items in the budget might have merit, however none of them, individually or collectively, carry the promise of jobs and economic growth that come with “The Bridge on the River Detroit.”

On the surface, omission of the bridge-related funding in Obama’s budget seems like a surprise, but this is an election year so, 1. Don’t be surprised, and 2. Don’t be concerned.

The NITC funding omission reeks of politics, especially with the immediate statement after the budget proposal was released that Michigan Congressman Gary Peters believes this “was a grave oversight, but we can work together to make this customs plaza a reality.”

How convenient.

Peters happens to be running for the U.S. Senate and polls show him trailing Republican opponent Terri Lynn Land.

The congressman also faces the daunting prospect of defending his all-in support for Obamacare where he repeated the president’s untrue promise that Americans who like their health care plans can keep them.

Peters has also introduced legislation to fund the customs plaza project.

So Obama, who says retaining Democratic control of the Senate is his chief aim, conveniently leaves out of his budget what amounts to a pittance of spending in the overall scheme of things, and leaves the work of getting the project on track to his Michigan Senate candidate, Gary Peters, who can claim the NITC as his own success story if the funding comes later — say in October, before the elections.

While we’ll never find a smoking gun to prove collusion between Peters and Obama on such a plot, we’re reminded that there are no coincidences in politics.

And if money is later forthcoming for “The Bridge on the River Detroit,” the NITC will be known as the project saved by Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters, not by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

That would leave the GOP to recite the final line from a character in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” — “Madness! … Madness!”

Frank Beckmann is host of “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM (760).

Originally posted by The Detroit News