Detroit River bridge team issues first significant job postings

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

The authority overseeing construction of the planned $2.1-billion Detroit River bridge is poised to issue its first substantial job postings for the project.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority on Friday will open up the application process for nearly 20 positions — most related to establishing the executive team that will oversee construction of the Detroit River International Crossing bridge that will connect the industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray.

“Since the formation of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority in July of last year, the organization has been focused on making the WDBA operational,” said CEO Michael Cautillo. “One of the first orders of business was to start the recruitment process for individuals to work on this exciting project.”

In October, the WDBA advertised for several senior executive positions which are scheduled to be announced shortly.

The new postings will include jobs in the area of engineering, financial, human resources and administrative assistants.

“As operational needs are identified, further job postings will be published,” Cautillo said.

Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, called it good news that job positions are starting to be rolled out by WDBA, but believes the primary hiring blitz to build the DRIC bridge is at least another 12 to 18 months away.

“They are manning the office and getting the technical expertise they need to get the tenders out and evaluate the RFQ (request for qualifications),” he said. “That hasn’t been issued yet and then they will need a reasonable amount of time for evaluation.”

There will next be a short list created by the WDBA of major construction consortiums with each asked to assemble a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build the bridge, Lyons said.

That will again take some to time for the WDBA team to study and decide on the winning bid, he said.

The DRIC project includes four components — a six-lane bridge, a Canadian plaza with border inspection and toll facilities, a U.S. plaza with border inspection, plus a feeder road and interchange with I-75 in Detroit.

The tender process and selection of contractors could be more complicated than the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway because two countries involved with the bridge project, Lyons said.

The WDBA has retained a local recruitment firm to handle the hiring process for the current postings, Cautillo said.

Those interested in learning of the exact jobs and applying should look online at thejobshoppe.com.

“We encourage talented individuals in the local communities to apply for these and upcoming positions,” Cautillo said.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

New Michigan senator poised to lead fight and secure new bridge plaza funding

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

Newly elected Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) listed securing $250 million for a U.S. Customs plaza for the new Detroit River bridge as a top priority Tuesday just before being sworn into office.

Peters, a Detroit-area congressman elected as freshman senator in November to replace retiring political stalwart Carl Levin, has long been a primary advocate to get construction started on the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project.

In his new role as senator, he called the DRIC bridge critical for both the Michigan and U.S. economies during a conference call with reporters.

“The international trade crossing is perhaps the most important infrastructure project in the whole country,” Peters said. “I will continue to push very aggressively for that.”

Peters has already secured a seat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — a key entity in Washington that decides spending and legislative priorities.

Peters indicated Tuesday he is also working hard to develop a relationship with Homeland Security boss Jeh Johnson — who DRIC supporters have been tirelessly lobbying to put money in the budget for the customs plaza in Detroit.

“(Johnson) just saw me in the hallway, raised his hand, and said ‘I know, I know, the bridge, the bridge,’” Peters said. “He knows where I’m coming from. It’s a priority. It’s something I’m going to continue to push very hard for.”

Peters will also sit on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, among others.

Committees are “quite influential” in terms of decision-making in Washington, said Bill Anderson, a Boston native and director of the University of Windsor’s cross-border institute.

“It varies from committee to committee, but in the American system, most of the give and take takes place in committees,” he said. “Whether you are in the House or Senate, getting a seat on the right committees is something every legislator really strives for.

“(Peters) having a seat on Homeland Security is a great thing. He can be a strong voice on the (bridge) issue. I hope he not only can appeal to the Senate, but also administration (under President Obama) in his own party.”

Peters also spoke at length Tuesday about ongoing concerns of petroleum coke — a byproduct from Canada’s oilsands. He was a political leader over a year ago to help remove massive piles of petcoke from the riverfront in Detroit.

Peters indicated he remains opposed to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. largely because of the petcoke issue.

“Petcoke on the Detroit River was not handled properly — it was blowing into people’s homes and businesses,” he said. “Detroit was just an example of what may happen if the Keystone pipeline goes all the way into New Orleans.

“We need a study on petcoke to determine its effects and best practices on how to handle it. I want to go from no standards to best standards.”

Local MP Brian Masse (NDP–Windsor-West) said having a seat on such influential committees gives Peters a chance to “steer the ship” and set the agenda on “issues he wants to focus on.”

“Having this (Windsor-Detroit) border reinforced in Washington is critical,” Masse said. “It has not been getting the attention it deserves. Having him there can make a difference. Just raising the issues and bringing it there is a critical component to getting any change.

“If someone can do this, it would be him. I’m confident in his abilities. He will bring this region to Washington. He is one of those type of guys. He has a real genuine interest in the area.”

Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Chamber — also active in lobbying to build the DRIC bridge — believes it will definitely make a difference with Peters in place as “someone who has really been engaged on the issue.”

He cited Peters’ being able to secure a seat on the homeland security committee, previously introducing legislation last term as a congressman to get funding for the bridge plaza, plus his growing ties with Johnson as positive signs.

Baruah said he believes it won’t be necessary for Canada to pay for the DRIC customs plaza — as Ottawa hinted it will do if delays continue.

“I really don’t think it will come to that,” Baruah said. “We have been working closely with the (Michigan) governor (Rick Snyder) and we think there are things afoot to ensure Canada does not have to pay for it.

“That would be embarrassing if that were the case. Canadians have already done a lot of heavy lifting on this project. Our position is this is U.S. infrastructure required for the U.S. government, so the U.S. government should pay for it.”

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Ambassador Bridge crash snarls traffic

CTV Windsor

Traffic was backed up on the Ambassador Bridge Tuesday afternoon after a reported collision between three transport trucks.

Windsor police say bridge traffic was slow coming into Canada and has stopped heading to the U.S.

A truck driver stuck on the bridge around 1:30 p.m. told CTV News both directions were at a standstill. He says Windsor emergency crews attended the scene. The crash appeared to be right in the middle of the bridge.

Traffic was also lined up along Huron Church road leading to the bridge.

Police say there were no injuries.

All lanes were open again around 3:30 p.m.

Originally posted by CTV Windsor

Eddie Francis named to international bridge authority

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has been named to the international authority that will oversee the construction of the new publicly owned $1-billion bridge connecting Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

Francis, who did not seek re-election in last month’s municipal election, is the last of six members to be named to the authority. The appointment takes effect Dec. 1.

Craig S. Rix was also named to the board of directors of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) for a term of three years.

The international authority oversees construction while the WDBA will oversee operations once complete.

“Mr. Francis is keenly aware of the issues and challenges that face the community. I also warmly welcome Mr. Rix to the board of directors of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. Their experience will greatly benefit the WDBA and International Authority as they build the new bridge,” Mark McQueen, chairperson of the board of directors said in a release.

Francis is the only local representative on the authority that is designed to ensure the Canada-Michigan agreement to build the new crossing is followed.

“I commend the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority for its excellent choice in appointing Mr. Eddie Francis to the International Authority,” Watson said in a news release. “As long-time City of Windsor Mayor, Mr. Francis has been a key player on this file since the beginning. His experience and knowledge, combined with the public policy and governance expertise of Mr.Rix, ensure that the two authorities are well prepared to continue working toward the building of this vital, job-creating infrastructure project that is the future new bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.”

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder named five members back in July.

Kristine Burr and Genevieve Gagnon were appointed by Raitt. At that time, one Canadian was still to be named.

Americans Michael D. Hayes, Birgit M. Klohs and Matt Rizik were appointed by the U.S.

The group of six will oversee and approve key steps in the procurement process for the new crossing. It will also monitor compliance of the Windsor-Detroit Authority with the crossing agreement, signed by Canada and Michigan in 2012.

The bridge is expected to open in 2020.

The total cost of the project would be about $4 billion Cdn, including work on freeway interchanges, customs plazas in both countries and infrastructure work.

The new bridge will have six lanes and border inspection on both sides of the Detroit River, Raitt previously said.

The U.S. has yet to announce funding for its customs plaza in Detroit. Watson was mum on the progress of that facility.

Officials said Monday that the biggest hurdles now are time and procuring resources.

The Ambassador Bridge, privately owned by Matty Moroun, is 85 years old and has four lanes.

Originally posted by CBC News

Politics and Prejudices: Matty Moroun’s very own congressman

How the troll under the bridge keeps Mike Bishop in his back pocket

Matty Moroun, the greedy billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge, always reminds me of Sauron, the evil eminence in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Thought from time to time to be finished, even dead, he merely bides his time, recovers his strength, and strikes back.

Enter Moroun. The last few years have been politically wretched ones for Matty, or as wretched as they can be when you’re down to your last $1.8 billion or so.

But now he seems about to have his very own bought-and-paid-for congressman, and his newest “pet bull” is already vowing to help sabotage the new Detroit River bridge as soon as he can.

First, a little background: Moroun, an 87-year-old bag of fertilizer waiting to be planted, has one goal in life. Not to help mankind, find a cure for cancer, not even to enjoy himself. He wants to prevent a new bridge across the river.

The auto industry badly needs a new bridge to stay competitive. Canada’s economy needs this bridge even more.

So much, in fact, that they’re willing to front all of Michigan’s costs for this project; they’re content to let us pay them back years later out of our share of the tolls.

Right now, Moroun’s 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge is the only way to get heavy components across the river. But it wasn’t built for today’s monster loads, and it’s wearing out.

Which is why a new one is needed. But Moroun wants to keep his monopoly, even though he is very old, very rich, and may very well be dead before a new bridge could ever open.

For years and years, Matty Moroun has managed to successfully buy off the legislature through the form of legalized bribery known as “campaign contributions.” He shelled out hundreds of thousands — and money by the millions rolled in.

One of his best boys was former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. Four years ago, Bishop promised to allow the Senate to hold a vote on whether to form a public-private partnership with Canada. But Matty didn’t like that.

Suddenly, Moroun poured more than $150,000 in contributions to political candidates and committees under Bishop’s control. Guess what. Mikey went back on his word!

He refused to hold a vote, something that stunned Canada. Brian Masse, a member of Parliament from Windsor, called it “an international betrayal.”

For Moroun, it was just another day at the office, using his latest tool. But then things changed.

Along came Rick Snyder. There’s one thing about very rich people in higher office: they’re harder to buy off. Snyder recognized two things: A) business, most notably manufacturing interests, needed a new bridge, and B) the legislature was owned by the Morouns.

So he found a way to go around the trolls, and used a little-known clause in the Michigan Constitution to conclude an agreement with Canada. The Morouns filed lawsuit after impotent lawsuit. That just made the lawyers richer.

Now, pretty much all that needs to happen is for the federal government to approve the $250 million customs plaza any international border crossing must have.

The first few years after Bishop betrayed his promises also weren’t good for ethically challenged Mike. He was term-limited out of his Senate job. That same year, his fellow Republicans denied him their nomination for attorney general.

Bishop next ran for Oakland County prosecutor, and Jessica Cooper beat him like a drum. He then found a job as a lawyer for a credit-card processing firm in Clawson.

Eventually, he might have moved up to repo man. But fortune smiled on him this year; Mike Rogers, the congressman from Lansing, quit to host a radio talk show.

Bishop became the GOP’s choice to replace him in the 8th District. And the minute he got back to the political kennel, he ran to his master. So far, the Moroun family and that of his chief mini-me, Dan Stamper, has given Bishop’s campaign $18,200.

In return, Matty’s man has promised to try to block the bridge by preventing funding for the customs plaza, telling a reporter for the Livingston Daily that he supports Moroun building a second bridge next to the Ambassador instead.

That’s what the Morouns love to tell the ignorant. In fact, high-level Canadian diplomats have told me they’d never let that happen; two bridges next to each other would be an air-pollution hazard and a traffic-snarling nightmare.

Democrats have a decent candidate in Eric Schertzing, a moderate Democrat who is the Ingham County treasurer.

But the district leans Republican. Unless something drastic happens, voters are about to elect a congressman who will owe his true allegiance not to them, but to Matty Moroun.

Moroun, the slumlord of the abandoned train station. Moroun, the man who has done everything he can to kill a new bridge that both countries desperately need.

You have to wonder if they have any idea.
Rockin’ Down the Ballot: One of the odder things about democracy in Michigan is that we vote to elect the state board of education and the people who run our three major universities: Wayne State University, Michigan State, and that school off in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan.

Even odder is that this isn’t a nonpartisan election. No group of seasoned experts in academia or university finance is called on to help select candidates. Nope. The party hacks delegates to their state conventions pick ‘em.

What’s amazing is that we’ve usually gotten pretty decent and responsible people as a result, with the occasional old football coach or businessman’s wife/kid thrown in.

Ironically, the candidates themselves have almost nothing to do with who wins these races. Except for a few of their friends, nobody even notices they’re running.

Most people who split their tickets ignore these races. Usually, if more straight-ticket GOP votes are cast, as was the case in 2010, Republicans win all or nearly all the board seats.

When the Democrats’ top candidate wins easily, as in 2008, their guys win. However, this year the governor’s race could be close, which means these races could go either way.

Which means you should educate yourselves about the education board candidates, for one simple reason: Education is vitally important to any chance of an economic recovery.

Three candidates are of special interest. First, a negative: Whatever else happens, it is vital that Maria Carl, one of the GOP candidates for the state board of education, be defeated.

Carl is an anti-abortion, radical right extremist who hates the Common Core education standards, in part because, as her website makes clear, she doesn’t understand them.

Chad Selweski the longtime politics reporter at The Macomb Daily, reports that at a Michigan GOP state convention in the 1990s, Carl shouted “She’s a Jew! She’s a Jew!” when Andrea Fischer (now Newman) was nominated for a seat on the Republican National Committee.

Classy Maria then loudly urged Macomb County delegates to support Betsy DeVos “because she isn’t a Jew.”

Yep, that’s just the kind of person we want making state education policy … in hell. At the other end of the spectrum is Cassandra Ulbrich, who is running for re-election.

Ulbrich is everything a board member ought to be: savvy in politics (I first knew her when she was a young aide to Congressman David Bonior), highly educated, and dedicated.

Currently, she is vice-president for college advancement and community relations at Macomb Community College, and really gets the challenges our schools face.

The other must-win candidate is Marilyn Kelly, a former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court who is running for a seat on the Wayne State Board of Governors.

Kelly herself was once a state board of education member; her knowledge of law, politics, education, and essential human decency mean she’d be a prize wherever she chose to serve.

Originally posted by Jack Lessenberry in: Metrotimes

Government Leaders Urge US Government to Fund New Customs Plaza

Government Leaders Urge US Government to Fund New Customs Plaza

September 30, 2014
By J. Carlisle Larsen

 

“I would rather have us do the right thing and just pay for it…”
—Governor Rick Snyder

 
The New International Trade Crossing has been in the works for well over a decade. First discussed and studied at the turn of this century, the new bridge was finally agreed upon between the U.S. and Canada in 2012. Since then, land has been purchased on both sides of the river; permits have been approved to build the bridge; and governing boards have been established to begin moving the project forward. But at a news conference held this summer in Windsor, a key question popped up. “What is happening with the United States custom plaza?” Canadian Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt had this answer.

“Well we don’t know what’s going to happen in the end. But what we can say right now is: we know we have construction timelines and they’re very important, ‘cause we want to get this bridge built, we want to make sure nothing holds it up. And we know there’s conversations happening,” She said. “But the important part for this is: regardless of conversations on financing, they can’t impede our progress on the bridge…”

Canada is shouldering virtually the entire cost of the new bridge—estimated at more than $500-million dollars. That’s actually been a selling point to some taxpayers since Michigan residents would not be on the hook for the project. However, state lawmakers have argued that the U-S government should take on the responsibility of funding the U-S customs plaza. But Raitt says, in order to keep the bridge on the timeline that Canadian officials want, they would be willing to consider fronting the cost for the American plaza.
“If push comes to shove, we’ll end up having that discussion and conversation. And I’ve said before, we’re open to it. But the reality is that: Governor Snyder is working on the matter, we’re working on the matter with the Ambassador to Canada from the United States…and that’s an appropriate place to have those conversations,” Raitt says.

And according to two prominent Michigan lawmakers, conversations are taking place to convince the U.S. government to make the new bridge and the customs plaza a top priority. One of those politicians is Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. His administration helped finalize the deal with Canada in 2012 and he’s been a vocal supporter of the bridge as a way to bolster the state’s economy. Snyder doesn’t mince words about the slow response from the federal government when it comes to approving funding for the plaza.

“Regardless of conversations on financing [the customs plaza], they can’t impede our progress on the bridge…”
—Canadian Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt

“It’s to be used by the federal government to protect the United States. And how would you feel if you were Canada, to say you were being asked to pay for that facility?” He says, “I think it’s offensive to the Canadian government and the people of Canada. So, I would rather have us do the right thing and just pay for it or rent it. So that’s the part I’m working on with the federal government.”

Snyder isn’t alone in pushing the federal government to fund the plaza. Michigan congressman Gary Peters introduced the Customs Plaza Construction Act of 2014—or H-R 4057—in February. Peters says he’s working to get support for the bill.

“It’s critical that this customs plaza be built. It’s important that the US federal government contributes to that seeing as most of the bridge project is being funded by the Canadian government,” Peters says. “But the facility that basically houses the US government agencies—border control and customs, needs to be funded by the federal government and we’re in the process of putting together the pieces and the support necessary to make that a reality.”

But the Peters’ bill has been sitting in both in the Homeland Security Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee since February. It’s likely that the hold-up to moving it out of committee is largely political. Tim Bledsoe is a Political Science Professor at Wayne State University and a former Democratic state legislator. He says he’s not confident that Peters’ bill will get passed given the make-up of the U-S House of Representatives.

“First of all, Gary Peters is a Democratic Congress member from Michigan and the US House is currently controlled by Republicans,” He says. “And generally the bills submitted by minority party members simply don’t move in the House of Representatives.”

Bledsoe says the bill would have had more political appeal in the House had it been co-sponsored by a Republican–such as Michigan Representative Mike Rogers or Dave Camp–instead of a slew of Democrats. However, Bledsoe says it’s possible that lawmakers could see a similar resolution tacked to another bill in the Senate, where its chances of passing are greater.

“Once it’s actually in a bill that’s been passed by the Senate…there’s a much greater likelihood of the Republican leadership of the House persuading its caucus to go along with it,” he says.
That fact isn’t lost on Gary Peters. He says it’s crucial that the bridge project is a bi-partisan effort, crediting the Governor—a Republican—with being an important part of the project. He admits getting his Republican colleagues on board in the House has been difficult. But Peters says he’s optimistic that the customs plaza will receive funding in some capacity. He says he’s been working with the Obama administration—which has funded other border projects, such as the customs plaza at the US-Mexico crossing in Laredo, Texas. Peters says there’s still time to secure money for the Detroit plaza since the bridge is in its earliest stages.

“Funding for the customs plaza doesn’t have to happen today or even next year, you don’t build a customs plaza until you build a bridge and that’s a few years down the road.

So we’ve got some time and I believe we’re making some good, constructive progress,” he says.
“It’s important that the US federal government contributes to [customs plaza] seeing as most of the bridge project is being funded by the Canadian government.”
—Representative Gary Peters, MI-14

Until the New International Trade Crossing is built, goods and motorists traveling through Michigan will still use the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, and the privately owned Ambassador Bridge to get to Ontario. It’s estimated that nearly eight-thousand trucks alone cross at the Ambassador Bridge daily. Supporters of the new bridge argue the project is needed to guarantee that trade will continue to flow freely between the two countries. The new bridge is scheduled to open by 2020.

Originally posted by J. Carlisle Larsen on WDET News

Land transfer deal for new border bridge approved

DETROIT (AP) — The state has approved Detroit’s transfer of 301 city-owned properties to a Michigan land bank authority in exchange for $1.4 million from the Canadian government as part of plans for an international commuter bridge.

The proposal was approved Friday in Lansing by the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board.

All of the properties are in southwest Detroit and within the footprint of the New International Trade Crossing over the Detroit River between the city and Windsor, Ontario.

Canada is paying most of the $2 billion project’s cost and plans to recoup the money through tolls. Officials say they hope to open the bridge in 2020.

The loan board also approved transactions Friday that will help Detroit settle financial claims as the city goes through its bankruptcy.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: The Times Herald

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