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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally Posted by: Michigan Radio

The Star’s View: Bridge maintenance seems sorely lacking

Slow-moving traffic on the Ambassador Bridge turned out to be a real eye opener for Robert Hood.

The long-haul driver from Peterborough had nothing better to do than look around while waiting to cross into Detroit, and what he saw were guard rails that were in “shocking shape,” with missing sections, heavy rust and cracks.

“It’s hanging. It’s ready to fall. There’s nothing holding it up other than broken clamps,” he said of the section leading from the Canadian plaza to the newer main span. The sight so troubled Hood that he started snapping pictures.

People appreciate the fact Hood sounded the alarm bells, but Windsorites already know the 85-year-old bridge is full of rust and holes and crumbling concrete.

That’s been public knowledge since 2009, when Matty Moroun, the bridge’s billionaire owner, lost his court fight to keep secret a report outlining the condition of the structure. It wasn’t that we couldn’t see the damage. It’s that we wanted to know what the experts had to say about it. A U.S. safety report revealed that, among other things, Moroun’s bridge was in “fair” condition, needed “major maintenance or repairs,” and there were missing bolts, deteriorating support channels, rails that didn’t meet current standards and rail posts that would having trouble withstanding vehicular impact. (Man overboard!)

Some things changed, but many didn’t.

The results of a 2012 report, on the bridge’s 83rd birthday, showed there were still significant problems.

In fact, it had University of Windsor students and faculty fearing the still-crumbling concrete and holes were a danger to both them and their vehicles. “When you see trucks driving over the holes, that can’t be good,” said one university staffer. No kidding.

Transport Canada indicated in 2013 it was satisfied the bridge was complying with report requirements regarding inspections, maintenance and repairs. But the agency didn’t say that meant it was satisfied with the actual work.

When asked about the guard rails in question, Dan Stamper, president of the Canadian Transit Company, indicated they were awaiting government approval to add new foundations, decking, lighting and hand rails.

The truth is, Stamper is awaiting approval for things unrelated to current safety requirements, namely a six-lane approach on the Canadian side and the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge.

We all know hell would freeze over before that happens, but that doesn’t mean Stamper and his successors can wait forever to fix what’s wrong.

Officials on both sides of the border haven’t cautioned people against driving on the bridge. But they’ve raised enough red flags — over and over — to show Moroun does the bare minimum, and only because it’s a matter of public record.

Originally posted by: The Windsor Star

Editorial: Another step forward on a new bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An LSJ editorial

U.S. needs to step up on Detroit-Windsor bridge project: Gov.

OTTAWA – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday the U.S. “needs to do a better job” on the Detroit-Windsor bridge, a project that’s been in the works for more than a decade.

Proposed back in 2002, the bridge is needed to facilitate trade between the U.S. and Canada – the largest trading partners in the world – but that’s been mired in controversy and setbacks since the beginning.

Snyder was joined by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt Wednesday for the joint announcement of a review panel, appointed to oversee all phases of the bridge construction.

Canada is funding most of the $1 billion project, with Washington only on the hook for the construction of a customs plaza on the U.S. side of the bridge.

That funding – $250 million – was thrown in doubt several months ago when Washington indicated it may not have the money.

Snyder thanked Canada for its generosity in the deal and described the U.S. position on the bridge – that it needs the bridge but doesn’t want to pay for it – as irrational.

“To be blunt, I think the U.S. federal government needs to do a better job,” Snyder told reporters.

Trade between the state of Michigan and Canada stands at roughly $75 billion a year, “far more than any other country,” Snyder said.

Raitt told reporters “our government won’t let financing disagreements get in the way of constructions timelines.”

Originally posted by: Toronto Sun

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

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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

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

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

Quick Facts

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

Quotes

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

The Honourable Lisa Raitt

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

Rick Snyder

Governor of Michigan

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Originally posted at: Michigan.gov

Canadian transport minister, Michigan governor announce plans for Detroit-Windsor bridge

DETROIT – Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday the creation of two international authorities to oversee the planned new Detroit-Windsor border crossing.

Speaking on the Windsor side of the Detroit riverfront, Raitt and Snyder said the project will be managed by the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. The non-profit Canadian-based corporation will select the project’s private sector developer, oversee the construction process, as well as setting and collecting the tolls when the bridge is complete.

Another organization, the Canada-Michigan International Authority will manage the land acquisition necessary for the six-lane bridge, Custom’s and toll facilities on both sides of the border, and a new I-75 interchange that connects the bridge directly to the freeway.

The project is expected to cost $2 billion with Canada fronting Michigan’s $550 million share of the project. They will be repaid from Michigan’s share of toll revenue.

Michigan and Canadian leaders have agreed to build the bridge over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor. The bridge’s Detroit footprint would be on the city’s southwest side.

Officials say Canada would finance construction of the bridge, which would open in 2020.

Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has fought the proposal for years, instead pushing for the building of an additional span to his private bridge.

Originally posted by Click On Detroit