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

Podcast: Consul General Roy Norton the New International Trade Crossing (Part 2)

Canada’s Consul General, Roy Norton, sat down with Windsor Morning to talk about the New International Trade Crossing and the importance of a new border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

Click here to listen to the second part of his interview.

Michigan Democrats urge Obama to name Detroit bridge point person

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Michigan’s seven Democratic members of Congress have urged President Barack Obama to name a senior White House official to help speed funding and construction of a new Detroit River bridge crossing and consider other funding approaches.

At issue is $250 million needed to construct a customs plaza on the U.S. side of the Detroit River, something the Canadian government expects the United States to finance while it funds the vast majority of the $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Carl Levin of Detroit and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing as well as U.S. Reps. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, John Dingell of Dearborn, Sander Levin of Royal Oak, John Conyers of Detroit and Dan Kildee of Flint urged Obama in a letter made public Sunday to help make the bridge possible.

The congressional letter comes two days before the release of the Obama administration’s budget plan, which the Canadian government hopes will include the $250 million or a future funding commitment. A failure to do so could push completion of the bridge beyond the projected 2020 target date, Roy Norton, Canada’s departing consul general in Detroit, said last week.

The letter said U.S Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration, the government’s landlord, have said they don’t have the money to fund the plaza and have met with the Canadian government to discuss the budgetary problems.

“Given the importance of this project to international trade and to the economy of Michigan, it is our hope that the groups involved can come together to resolve the funding concerns,” the Feb. 21 letter said.

The Democrats said alternative financing should be explored, “including public-private partnerships or the leasing of the facility by the U.S government.”

The letter asked Obama to “designate a senior White House official with the responsibility of coordinating and negotiating a way to move this vital project forward.”

Canadian officials have agreed to spend more than $630 million over two years on the new bridge that both countries consider essential for easing trading and creating regional job growth. A new span is to be built roughly two miles downriver from the Ambassador Bridge owned by Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who spent more than $30 million on an unsuccessful 2012 ballot measure to try to derail the project.

The U.S.-Canadian venture would connect Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 traffic on the Detroit side of the river with Windsor-Essex Parkway traffic in Windsor. The letter to Obama said the Canadian government is reluctant to fund the U.S. customs plaza.

Gov. Rick Snyder said last month the Obama administration has refused to commit money for property acquisition or rents. But Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said last week there is “time to work out” the plaza issue “and we’re going to work nonstop with the administration and congressional partners to help address this last, key remaining issue.”

Last month, Peters introduced legislation to approve $250 million to begin work on the plaza.

Originally posted by The Detroit News

Canadian leaders hope for DRIC bridge money in Obama’s budget

The Windsor Star

Dave Battagello

The Obama administration is poised to release its budget Tuesday, but there are few signs $250 million needed to construct a customs plaza in Detroit for the planned $1-billion downriver Detroit River International Crossing bridge will be included.

“There is no indication, but they don’t tell people what’s in the budget (ahead of time) any more than our leaders say what’s in ours,” said Canada Consul General Roy Norton, a leader in the fight to get the $1-billion bridge built.

“We will find out Tuesday. Obviously we would like something there. If nothing is there it’s not the end of the world, but the question is when there might be?”

The Canadian government has agreed to pay full costs for the bridge, plus property acquisition in Detroit and feeder roads to link with I-75 freeway – which in total will cost over $2 billion. The only project cost not covered is the U.S. customs plaza which is the responsibility of Washington.

Should funds be in Tuesday’s U.S. federal budget they would be included under the Department of Homeland Security.

Norton indicated should there be no funds, he would at least like to see a commitment mentioned in the U.S. budget to cover those costs sometime within the following couple of years.

The Canadian government is scheduled to put the project up for bids to the private sector late this year to consortiums.

“If it’s not this year, then are they committed to build the plaza?” Norton said. “That would be enough for us to proceed with a call for bidders on the span.”

The Harper government a few weeks ago announced a $630 million commitment to get property acquisition started in Detroit and pre-construction work launched.

The federal government already owns nearly all property required for the DRIC bridge on the Windsor side. Early environmental work has already started on the Canadian side, while the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway – an 11-kilometre highway designed to connect the bridge to Highway 401 – is about halfway completed.

A spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder expressed confidence Friday the DRIC bridge will move forward regardless of what happens with Tuesday’s budget announcement.

“The issue obviously needs to be addressed at some point and that’s why the governor continues to work with our federal and Canadian partners on this,” said Snyder’s spokesman Ken Silfven. “But next Tuesday should not be seen as any kind of deadline. The (DRIC) project is moving forward as plaza discussions continue.

“The plaza issue hasn’t caused one delay. There’s time to resolve the issue and we have every confidence that will happen regardless of whether an appropriation actually is included in the president’s recommended budget.”

There has been lobbying efforts by Canadian leaders on the issue in Washington, Norton said.

“Our embassy has been very active emphasizing how important this is,” he said. “Gov. Snyder has spoken and (federal transportation) Minister Lisa Raitt has had several conversations with her counterpart Secretary (Anthony) Foxx. I know members of Congress from Michigan have also communicated to the White House this should be a priority.

“What we need is certainty. We don’t necessarily need the money yet. Only for (the plaza) to be funded by the completion of all this. If there is a commitment they will build it, then that’s good enough for us.”

A spokesman for Transport Canada noted the DRIC bridge agreement calls for Washington’s financial backing of the plaza.

“We are hopeful that 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,” said Mark Butler.

Local MP Jeff Watson (C – Essex) believes there are other avenues beside the U.S. federal budget to secure funding for the customs plaza in Detroit.

“There are many other mechanisms for Congress through another appropriations bill to move this forward,” he said. “I’m not waiting around to see whether the budget by the president has this initiative for the plaza or not.

“There are a ton of funding bills related to infrastructure and this could be attached to any one of those bills.”

In the meantime, Watson said: “There is an overwhelming majority of other projects related to this that can begin moving forward.”

Local MP Brian Masse (NDP – Windsor West) was in Washington for border-related committee meetings this past week from Monday through Wednesday.

“The plaza did come up,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be in the upcoming budget, but the good news is everybody knew about the project.

“My major concern is if there is not an actual financial commitment (by the U.S. government), what’s our backup plan? Will this delay the project or is there another plan?”

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Henderson: What happened to our once mighty neighbour?

The Windsor Star

Gord Henderson

When did America lose its mojo? When and how did the Great Republic, historic bastion of freedom and democracy, surrender its pride and self-respect?

I’m as delighted as the next resident that Ottawa came through with a billion dollars worth of lifelines for the Windsor region this week, including big bucks to keep Fiat-Chrysler here and $631 million to support construction of the all-important Detroit River International Crossing.

No sane person would rain on that parade. The torrent of money from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget might well be this region’s salvation. Tuesday, Feb. 11 was, in all likelihood, an epic turning point that saved thousands of jobs and kept this area from dissolving into an economic puddle.

Still, amid all the cork popping, it strikes me as sad and embarrassing to see our once mighty next-door neighbour, last of the former big spenders, sit on its hands while Canada picks up most of the eye-popping tab for the new trade link between our partner nations.

Thoughtful Americans are surely humiliated by the demeaning spectacle of America and Michigan riding free, counting on Canada’s chequebook to get this vital project built while they concern themselves with more urgent issues, like building a grand new home for the Red Wings.

Yes, our federal government’s financial backstopping was instrumental in bringing Michigan public opinion on board at a critical stage in the approval process. Free money from the Great White North. With no risks and no conditions. Who the heck says no to that offer?

And yet here we are, deep into the process, waiting for a foot-dragging and seemingly disinterested Washington to commit $250 million to build a customs plaza in Detroit to service traffic over the new bridge.

Meanwhile, Canada, with fewer people than California and a devalued currency, is spending eight times as much, something like $2 billion, to build the international bridge, acquire properties in Detroit and pay for connecting roads.

We’re doing their job. How did it come to this? How did a nation once labelled the planet’s sole remaining superpower, chest-thumping victor in the Cold War, become a country that can’t or won’t pay its fair share of a new link on one of the world’s busiest trade corridors?

Say what you will about Stephen Harper and company, but this Conservative regime has been shrewd, visionary and remarkably generous in its unwavering commitment to seeing this border project completed.

They have nothing to gain politically in Windsor, a Conservative wasteland, but they see the long-term picture and understand the immense value to Canada of streamlined cross-border commercial traffic.

Why can’t Washington see this? Why hasn’t the Obama administration been a full partner with Canada in getting this done? Why aren’t they splitting costs 50-50?

Surely a country that squandered $800 billion to $4 trillion (depending on which study you believe) on the Iraq War fiasco, including massive infrastructure investments, could find a billion for a bridge to its closest neighbour.

What happened to the America that built the Panama Canal, sent men to the moon and had the resources and foresight to sponsor a ravaged Europe’s reconstruction after the Second World War?

What became of the wartime America that, under threat of invasion from Japan, built the 2,700-km Alaska Highway through swamps and muskeg, over jagged mountains and across raging rivers, in less than eight months? Work began on March 8, 1942 and was finished that October. That was an America that believed in itself.

What would Dwight Eisenhower, two-term president and former Allied supreme commander, think of this dithering over a single bridge across a mile of calm water? This guy presided over a D-Day invasion so complex it included shipping entire harbours from England to Normandy.

In 1956 Eisenhower took time out from his golf craze to authorize construction of the National System of Interstate and Defence Highways. A quarter-century and $131 billion later, the U.S. could boast of the “greatest public works project in history” with a staggering 46,000-plus miles of interstate highways.

And this bunch can’t see their way clear to building a bridge and a short stretch of road connecting to one of those interstates? How sad is that?

This is a different America. Hobbled by $17 trillion in debt and with a Capitol paralyzed by bitter partisan gridlock, it’s a diminished country. Its space shuttles are parked in museums while American astronauts hitch rides to the space station on Russian rockets.

It’s great that Canada, on the cusp of a balanced budget, is in a position to take the lead on DRIC. But it would be nice, given the once all-important lessons of 9-11, if we could get a bit more help from the folks next door.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

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