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

Land acquisition next step in building bridge from Detroit to Canada

By David Muller | mlive.com

DETROIT, MI The next step in building a second, international bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario will be for the state to begin acquiring land, though that process is not likely to begin until 2014 at the earliest.

A spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said that for the New International Trade Crossing* to move forward, a Memorandum of Understanding for how the land acquisition process will proceed still needs to be worked out with Canada.

The bridge is estimated to cost $2.15 billion as of 2009, and the Canadian government – keen on easing traffic flow in Windsor – has committed $550 million to cover any of Michigan’s cost on the project.

The project is tentatively scheduled to be complete in seven years. The bridge will connect Interstate 75 in Detroit with Canada’s Highway 401 in Windsor.

The federal government issued a presidential permit in April, which appeared to be one of the final hurdles in moving the project forward.

Two lawsuits had been filed in federal court seeking to block the project, though with the issuance of the presidential permit it appears the project can move forward in spite of them.

The bridge’s landing in Detroit will be in the Delray neighborhood, with its main tower or pylon located be between the LaFarge Cement facility and the McCoig Aggregate dock. The toll and customs plaza for the bridge is expected to cover about 170 acres. It will have a direct connection to I-75 near Military Street.

*The bridge is known as the NITC is Michigan, but it has been called the DRIC in Canada. A final moniker has yet to be selected.

The New International Trade Crossing: A means to boost Detroit-and-area employment at a critical time

By Roy Norton

(this article mostly derives from remarks to the International Union of Operating Engineers, at Gaylord, MI, Oct. 24, 2012, and to the Southwest Detroit Business Association, at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers, June 13, 2013)

I’ve had the good fortune to represent Canada in Michigan since 2010. During these three exceptional years, no Michigan-Canada issue has been more important than reaching agreement to build the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

In January 2011, your governor dedicated five minutes of his first state-of-the-state speech to talking about Michigan’s connections with Canada. The speech was remarkable; I’m pretty sure that no other U.S. governor has ever used such a high-profile occasion to remind his audience of how interconnected a jurisdiction – in this case, Michigan – is with Canada.

It’s about jobs …

The governor took that opportunity to endorse construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. He knows – as do workers and job creators across this state – that the majority of Michigan-Canada trade depends on one 84-year-old bridge to get to market. 44% of everything Michigan sells to the world is bought in Canada – more than by your state’s next 14-largest markets combined.

218,000 jobs in your state depend on trade with Canada – literally, on stuff moving to and from Canada, reliably and efficiently. Today, most of those goods cross the Ambassador Bridge.

We must not forget – this is about more than Michigan and Canada. Legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, even Alabama, have passed Resolutions calling for the NITC to proceed. Lawmakers in those states, and in others, know how vulnerable their trade with Canada is to the risk that one very old bridge, for which there’s no real redundancy, could at some point become horribly inefficient. Or even fail – whether due to old age, a catastrophic accident, or terrorism.

Last November, Michigan’s voters proved they well-understand these fundamental realities. The 60/40 rejection of Proposition 6 didn’t happen by accident. Across Michigan, farmers, union laborers, manufacturers, voters understood that Michigan’s prosperity – and prospects – hung in the balance.

With that outcome, Michiganders effectively endorsed a transportation infrastructure project, the total investment in which, on both sides of the border, will approach $4 billion. Building it will create tens of thousands of construction and materials-supply jobs in our two countries during the 4-year construction period. Could there be a better time, in Detroit’s history, for such a major job-creating project to get underway?

The NITC will assure the security of the jobs of millions of workers employed in manufacturing and logistics in both countries. Certainty around the existence of reliable cross-border transportation infrastructure will make this region – both sides of the border – attractive to on-going investment that will result in many more jobs. Rarely has a single piece of infrastructure been more important.

In the medium-term, there will be many permanent jobs associated with operation of the crossing, and in businesses – existing and new – linked to border operations.

and communities …

The NITC, like all major infrastructure projects, will alter the local landscape. While the preliminary impact area has been identified, the exact boundaries could still change. Property owners in the impacted area will be notified officially when plans are finalized. Until that time, binding predictions of specific future land uses simply cannot be made. But governments have made clear their commitment: measures for necessary relocation will be fair and equitable.

The NITC will be jointly owned by the Government of Canada and the State of Michigan. As owners, Canada and Michigan are ultimately responsible for ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to enable the host communities in the Detroit and Windsor areas to benefit from the NITC project and to mitigate its negative impacts.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the bridge. The Authority will be required to undertake public outreach activities to ensure the host community is engaged throughout the procurement, construction and operations phases of the project. Such outreach activities will include, but may not be limited to:

  • Development of a public website where all project-related information, reports & materials can be found, and public feedback can be solicited;
  • Holding annual public meetings in both Detroit and Windsor to provide a forum for two-way dialogue that allows for public questions and comments;
  • Issuing information bulletins (newsletters, reports, e-mails etc.) to provide information on the NITC to the interested public;
  • Issuing an annual report to communicate its activities to stakeholders; and,
  • Formal periodic consultations with community stakeholders.

Canada and Michigan plan to pursue a public-private partnership (P3) for the new crossing. This arrangement would see the public sector enter into a contract with a private sector consortium to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the bridge under a long-term concession. At the end of the term, the consortium would transfer the bridge to the public sector. The underlying goal of all P3s is to combine the best capabilities of both public and private sectors for mutual benefit.

Through this contract, Canada and Michigan will ensure that the private sector satisfies the public interest through rigorous, built-in performance standards. The operator will be required to meet all applicable laws and regulations. In addition, the P3 contract will require that the operator establish and maintain mechanisms to understand and address community concerns.

In order to promote NITC community benefits in the context of an innovative P3 arrangement, evaluation criteria to benefit local communities will be included in the Request for Qualification (RFQ).

With respect to community benefits and community involvement, consortia will be asked to include the following as part of their proposals:

  • A plan as to how the community would be involved in the project’s operations during the construction and operations periods;
  • What types of community outreach the consortium would be undertaking to minimize detrimental impacts from vibration, noise, traffic routing, congestion relief, local road repair and rehabilitation, and so on; and,
  • A plan as to how the consortium would work with local community groups, institutions of higher learning, unions and others to maximize opportunities for local employment (e.g., training, apprenticeship programs and the like).

Bidders will be asked how they would reach out to the community, be a good neighbor, employ locally and so forth. The operator will be held to the highest performance standards to ensure that legitimate concerns of the communities are acknowledged and addressed.

We are confident project economics will dictate that local labor, supplies and suppliers be used to the maximum extent possible. Canada and Michigan will strongly encourage and reward the use of local resources, local supplies, and local job training initiatives (including apprenticeship programs) through the procurement process.

U.S. workers in the U.S.A. …

In case there’s doubt, work on the Michigan side can only be done by folks eligible to work in the USA. Canadians can’t come over and take those jobs. Just as Americans can’t come and take the jobs on the Canadian side.

It’s been estimated, in study after study, that more than 10,000 full time jobs – in the construction sector alone – will be created from this project, just in Michigan. Those will be good paying jobs.
And the spinoffs from the project will create another 13,000-or-more jobs. No single project in Michigan in the foreseeable future will generate nearly as much employment as this will.

Michigan has also negotiated an amazing arrangement with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration whereby the $550M that Canada will pay for the Interchange to I-75 – money that never flows into Michigan’s books – will be counted by US DoT as Michigan’s share in the four-to-one match program.

Meaning Canada’s $550 million will secure an additional $2.2 billion in federal funds for road and bridge construction anywhere in Michigan. No cost to the state – but a great benefit to Michigan workers! The Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, in a 2012 study, projected that an additional 6,000 jobs will be created as a result. These funds will begin to flow after NITC construction has begun.

That agreement means this project becomes conditioned to federal matching requirements. One of those is the applicability of ‘Davis Bacon’ – meaning that ‘prevailing wages’ must be paid.

Here’s another gain for American labor and American business. Even though there’s zero U.S. (or MI) money in either the bridge span or the interchange, Canada agreed that those components will be constructed according to a new rule: Buy Canada/Buy US. We don’t know which companies will win contracts to provide steel and other content for the bridge. But we do know, as a result of this rule, that content will come from one or the other (or more likely both) of our two countries. Not from Brazil. Not from China. Not from anywhere else.

The Moroun ad campaign in support of Prop 6 left the impression the NITC would be made of Chinese steel. Like everything else in those ads, that wasn’t true. The U.S. Steelworkers Union enthusiastically endorsed the Buy U.S.-Buy Canada Agreement. They would not have supported this if there was even a chance the bridge would be made of anything other than U.S.-Canadian steel.

Going forward …

Several major necessary milestones have already been realized: the June 2012 Michigan/Canada Agreement; the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 6; the U.S. Presidential Permit this April 12.

Two milestones, and some irritants, remain. After defeat of their Proposition 6, the Morouns’ spokesman defiantly declared they would take their campaign “to the courts” and to “Washington, D.C.” The fact that the Presidential Permit was issued in the face of a Moroun lawsuit contesting the U.S. government’s authority to do so suggests the desperate actions of the Ambassador Bridge owners are now considered frivolous and totally without merit.

One lawsuit has already been dismissed (in July, by Ingham County Judge Joyce Draganchuk). Suits will probably continue; launching court actions is what these people do. But their lawsuits and stunts can no longer kill this project.

Concerning the two remaining milestones, the U.S. Coast Guard Permit should be a formality; after all, there will be no NITC footings in the water, and it will achieve the height clearances necessary for Detroit River shipping.

Funding for the U.S. Customs Plaza will have to be identified and committed before bids from private sector companies can be invited. We know that money is tight. Everywhere. But we also know the U.S. is a reliable partner – one that can be counted on to discharge its responsibilities. As already noted, the total cost for this project – including all of the road work on both sides of the border – approaches $4 billion. The Governments of Canada and Ontario are committed to pay for – or guarantee – approximately 95% of that sum. The state of Michigan bears no cost and no liability. Per the Crossing Agreement, the customs plaza on the U.S. side – at an approximate cost of $250 million – is clearly a U.S. federal government responsibility. Meeting in Minneapolis in July, the Council of State Government’s Midwestern Legislative Conference (representing eleven states) called on Washington to act quickly to fund the customs plaza, so that the project can get underway.

When our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City in May, he described Detroit-Windsor as the “largest single trade corridor in the world.” Meaning, it’s important to the U.S. and to Canada that we get things right at Detroit-Windsor.

That this project could soon proceed is testament to the resolve and the drive of many. Resolve and drive will still be required in the months ahead.

Between us, Americans and Canadians, Michiganders and Ontarians, are poised to achieve something really big. Something really important to the future of this entire region. Through the extraordinary partnership that we’ve built – together – we will grow our shared economy. We will create jobs – and new hope – for people across this region, on both sides of the border. including for the good people of Detroit. Those couldn’t come at a more important time.

Dr. Roy Norton has represented Canada in the U.S. mid-west since September 2010. He’s been especially active in building support for a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor – but has also been heavily engaged in promoting increased two-way trade and investment, managing border-related and Great Lakes issues, and in building greater awareness of the extent of economic integration (including in the energy sector) between the U.S. and Canada. His two previous foreign assignments for the Government of Canada have been at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Originally posted by Dome Magazine

Preparations begin for DRIC bridge

Dave Battagello, The The Windsor Star

It might seem things have fallen silent since a presidential permit was granted in April by the Obama administration to build the new $1-billion Detroit River bridge, but preparation work is underway on Windsor’s west end for the crossing. A fence has recently been erected in Brighton Beach to mark off the new federally owned property which will be home of the Canadian plaza for the Detroit River International Crossing that will sit about two kilometres downriver from the Ambassador Bridge.

Transport Canada – which is overseeing the process – has also launched environmental measures required within the lands that will serve as the launching point for the new bridge, said Mark Butler, spokesman for the federal agency. “Transport Canada has completed several environmental mitigation measures,” he said. “They include the relocation of at-risk species and plants off of the plaza site, breeding bird surveys and vegetative surveys.

“A separate snake barrier has also already been erected to contain any potential at-risk snakes, including the Eastern Fox Snake and the Butler Garter Snake. They will be contained to the property for relocation to protected areas.” The federal agency is also working closely with other departments, including the Canada Border Services Agency, on the design of the Canadian plaza, Butler said.

On the Canadian side, Transport Canada is also in the midst of completing negotiations with one residential property owner and five industrial property owners for the remaining lands required for the Canadian plaza site.

All other property leading up to the bridge in Windsor has already been acquired under the joint Ontario-Canada government efforts to finish construction of the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway – the new 11-kilometre border highway that will connect Highway 401 to the DRIC bridge.

On the U.S. side, design work for the plaza and customs inspection area to be located in the industrial community of Delray is also well underway, Butler said.

“Transport Canada has been working with our U.S. and Michigan partners with a focus on the Michigan port of entry that includes design work and discussions on property acquisition,” he said.

Government officials from both sides of the border overseeing the bridge project indicated construction should begin in either late 2015 or early 2016. It is expected to take four years to complete, likely putting the first vehicle on the new bridge in 2020.

Until construction gets started a new international bridge authority of six officials – three each from Canada and the U.S. – must be appointed. They are to establish a publicprivate partnership corporation, similar to the parkway project, that will be responsible over decades for funding, building, managing and maintaining the new bridge.

A request for qualifications process will be undertaken by the authority to find a private sector partner. That is expected to take at least a year depending on how many bids are received and must be studied.

The DRIC bridge is viewed by government leaders as a needed replacement for the current 83-year-old bridge, which annually carries 25 per cent of Canada-U.S. trade which last year overall reached nearly $750 billion.

Truck drivers from both sides of the border have remained frustrated for years by delays and inefficiencies on the aging four-lane bridge which is difficult to reach in Windsor because of more than a dozen stoplights between Highway 401 and the bridge.

The trucking industry and its drivers are attempting to be patient as preparation and construction of the DRIC bridge slowly gets underway, said Stephen Laskowski, vice-president of the Ontario Trucking Association.

“The private and public sectors will always define quick differently,” he said. “That said, the trucking sector is very aware and appreciative that both Ottawa and Queen’s Park continue to make the construction of the new bridge a very high priority.”

The Canadian government has agreed to pay up to $550 million for Michigan’s share of the DRIC project – largely for property acquisition and feeder roads connecting the bridge to I-75 freeway in Detroit. The government will also pay for the Canadian plaza which is projected to cost $387 million, while the private sector partner will be asked to help pay for the $1-billion bridge itself with costs to be recovered through tolls.

Michigan Leaders Praise Granting of Presidential Permit

New International Trade Crossing Moves Forward

Washington, DC. – The U.S. Department of State issued a Presidential Permit for the construction of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) today. The project could break ground some time in 2014 and is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs and secure international commerce with Canada, Michigan’s largest trading partner, for decades to come.

“This is great news for Michigan,” said L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive. “We need this critical piece of infrastructure to support trade with Canada, which provides more than 230,000 jobs in Michigan, including 41,000 jobs in Oakland County.”

The new Detroit-Windsor bridge is supported by more than 175 business, labor, and community leaders and organizations representing more than 10,000 businesses and hundreds of thousands of Michigan employees.

“This is great news for Michigan and North America. To ensure our companies can compete, they need the infrastructure to connect them to the marketplace,” said Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “The New International Trade Crossing is a key platform for improving the flow of trade, and it will play a vital role in creating and supporting economic growth, including right here in West Michigan.”

The Detroit-Windsor border is crucial to Michigan’s economic success. In 2011, trade between Michigan and Canada totaled $70.2 billion – more than 11 percent of the total U.S./Canada trade. Additionally, more than 8,000 trucks per day cross the Detroit-Windsor border. According to the Public Border Operators Association (PBOA), truck traffic is projected to increase 128 percent over the next 30 years.

“The success and growth of Michigan’s auto industry is directly tied to exporting and importing products with Canada,” said Tim Daman, President and CEO, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The Detroit-Windsor corridor is arguably the most important international crossing for trade in the world and is in desperate need of an upgrade. The new crossing will provide secure world-class trade and transportation infrastructure, providing the long needed direct freeway-to-freeway connection to the busiest corridor between the U.S. and Canada.”

The project has received all of the necessary environmental clearances in the U.S. and Canada. The project now awaits the final approval for the U.S. Coast Guard permit as well as land acquisition.

“The New International Trade Crossing expands our markets with our largest trading partner and will position Michigan as a global trade hub for decades to come,” said Paul Tait, Executive Director, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). ”This bridge will make freight movement more efficient and give our border critical backup to expand our region’s standing in the market.”

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‘This is all about jobs for today and tomorrow’; Snyder lauds federal government’s approval of key NITC permit

Originally posted by Governor Rick Snyder

DETROIT – Gov. Rick Snyder today welcomed federal issuance of a key permit needed to proceed with the New International Trade Crossing, a project expected to create 12,000 jobs and enhance Michigan’s economic future.

Michigan applied for the Presidential Permit on June 21, 2012, days after Snyder signed the historic NITC crossing agreement with Canadian officials. Effectiveness of the agreement was subject to approval by the U.S. State Department. The department conducted an extended public comment period before approving the permit, which now makes the Michigan-Canada agreement operative. While other steps remain before NITC construction begins, they hinged on Michigan’s ability to secure a Presidential Permit.

“This is all about jobs for today and tomorrow,” Snyder said. “This is a major construction project that is expected to create 12,000 direct jobs and as many as 31,000 indirect jobs. Getting Michigan-made products to more markets faster will enhance our economic competitiveness in the future and help our state create more jobs.

“This project is important for the future of Michigan, the United States and Canada. I appreciate the U.S. State Department’s thorough review as well as the continued support of our Canadian partners. This new trade crossing will make Michigan stronger in many ways.”

The U.S. State Department determined that the NITC will “serve the national interest” for several reasons, including its job-creation benefits, advancement of America’s foreign policy interests, promotion of cross-border trade and commerce, and added capacity to accommodate expected border traffic growth.

The NITC will be built at no cost to Michigan taxpayers and will provide a modern, strategically located bridge between Detroit and Windsor. It is supported by a broad coalition that includes business and labor. The project is vital to enhancing the $70 billion-a-year trade relationship between Michigan and Canada. It will generate thousands of short- and long-term jobs on both sides of the border, open trade markets, strengthen economic security and ease traffic congestion.

“Michigan is moving forward and the future is bright,” Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said. “We’re positioning the Detroit community and our entire state to thrive in the global economy. The NITC will open doors for entrepreneurs, farmers and manufacturers in every corner of our state. There’s still much work to be done but approval of the Presidential Permit is a significant step along Michigan’s path to prosperity. We look forward to working with the Delray community as this project progresses.”

The U.S. State Department issues Presidential Permits for the construction, connection, operation or maintenance of certain facilities at U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Permits are required for land crossings, bridges, pipelines, tunnels and tramways.

With the Presidential Permit in hand, next steps include naming members to the International Authority, planning for the relocation of utilities,  initiating the process for land acquisition and applying for a U.S. Coast Guard permit. The entire project will take about seven years and includes the building of interchange ramps and an inspection plaza. Construction of the actual bridge span is expected to begin in about two years.

The Federal Highway Administration granted Michigan’s request for  a Buy America waiver in December 2012, allowing for the use of American and Canadian steel in the bridge.

The NITC will be a public bridge operated by a private concessionaire. Its benefits include:

  • The creation of about 12,000 direct and as many as 31,000 indirect jobs related to construction.
  • Allowing Michigan to use Canada’s generous contribution of up to $550 million as eligible matching funds for U.S. federal aid to support the state’s highway projects.
  • A new direct connection between I-75 in Michigan and Highway 401 in Canada that eases traffic congestion at the border and allows trucks to bypass residential communities. The existing bridge at the Detroit-Windsor crossing is the No. 1 traffic bottleneck in the entire Pan-American Freeway system.
  • Reducing costs to job providers, particularly the auto industry. Estimates show that border regulations and delays now add significant costs to vehicle production.
  • Minimizing the likelihood of an economic disaster for Michigan or Windsor should one of the other border crossings sustain lengthy shutdowns.
  • Additional border-crossing capacity to meet the long-term demands of our growing economies.
  • New investment being attracted to Michigan by this modern infrastructure.

The Michigan-Canada agreement allows for the creation of an International Authority to oversee the letting of bids to privately design, develop, finance, construct and operate the NITC. The Authority will be comprised of three members appointed by Canada and three members appointed by Michigan.

Construction cost of the bridge itself – not including other project components such as land acquisition and the I-75 interchange construction, which Canada will pay for directly – is estimated at $950 million. The cost will be paid by a private concessionaire and will be repaid by Canada through tolls.

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New bridge to Canada gets presidential permit

By Paul Egan and Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press Staff Writers

LANSING – The presidential permit for the New International Trade Crossing has been approved, and the announcement will be made today in Detroit by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Free Press has learned.

Jeff Holyfield, a spokesman for Snyder, said the governor will be in Detroit today for an economic development announcement, but he would not confirm the news about the presidential permit.

“We’re not saying anything at this time about that one,” Holyfield said.

But sources close to the development confirmed to the Free Press that the permit for the bridge project would be announced today. One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the U.S. State Department had signed off on the permit Thursday and notified ambassadors for both countries and Snyder.

The Windsor Star, citing anonymous sources, first reported the development Thursday evening.

Officials have been invited to a news conference in Detroit this afternoon, but the announcement was being kept close to the vest, even among the proponents for the new crossing.

One supporter who has worked closely with the project received an invitation to an event with the governor at 2 p.m. today — “a press conference occurring Friday afternoon regarding Michigan’s economic future” — with no mention of the long-awaited bridge.

The event is at James Group International, a company that does packaging, freight forwarding and warehousing and has been a supporter of the new bridge. In 2011, John James, chairman and CEO of the company, called the building of a new bridge “a tremendous growth opportunity.”

This permit for the bridge is one of the last steps required before construction can begin on the new bridge. The State Department signs off on all international crossings, but this one took longer than some expected; it was applied for last summer.

Last week, a State Department official told the Free Press that the department had received about 15,000 comments on the proposed crossing.

Snyder signed an agreement with Canada to build a public bridge across the Detroit River after the Legislature wouldn’t approve the plan. The Canadian government has offered to pay Michigan’s $550-million share of the $2.1-billion overall cost of the NITC bridge.

The development is opposed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., to block the project.

Hamish Hume, the lawyer for the Moroun family’s interests in Washington, said Monday that if a presidential permit was issued while they were seeking an injunction to block it, Moroun’s bridge company would — as soon as possible — file an expedited motion with the U.S. district judge hearing the case in Washington.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. is arguing that the process by which the permit for a new border crossing can be issued is unconstitutional because when Congress gave the State Department that power in 1972, it did not outline a specific principle to apply when deciding such cases.

Also, the bridge company argues that because it was created by legislation in both Congress and the Canadian Parliament in 1921 — predating the 1972 bridge act — it would take legislation in both to allow a rival bridge to be built.

New Detroit-Windsor crossing reportedly to be announced today

By David Shepardson and Chad Livengood
The Detroit News

A presidential permit is moving forward for a new Detroit River bridge crossing, a decision that is expected to be announced as early as today that clears a last hurdle in constructing the $2 billion project.

A congressional aide briefed on the matter said Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to announce the approval from President Barack Obama today, and said the State Department has scheduled a telephone briefing for members of Congress.

Tom Shields, spokesman for the Coalition Supporting the New International Trade Crossing, said late Thursday that Snyder’s office invited him to attend a news conference today at the James Group International on West Fort Street, near the site of the new bridge, without saying what would be announced.

“I’m planning on being there and hopeful that it’s good news (for the bridge),” Shields told The News.

The Windsor Star reported late Thursday that Snyder will be joined at the news conference this afternoon by Canadian officials to announce the State Department presidential permit has been approved for the bridge between Windsor and southwest Detroit, a move needed to start construction of the $2.1 billion span.

The Canadian Embassy in Washington and White House did not respond to messages late Thursday to comment. Snyder spokesman Jeff Holyfield would neither confirm nor deny the Windsor Star report.

On Thursday, Snyder told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids that “the bridge is making progress.”

“The presidential permit’s the next step and I hope we get that permit anytime,” Snyder said. “So we’re right on the edge and moving forward with it.”

Snyder has held several meetings in Washington this year with the Obama administration about the permit. Snyder’s office issued a media advisory Thursday saying the governor would hold a 2:30 p.m. news conference today to “discuss Michigan’s business climate and job creation at a growing Detroit business.”

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said the Governor’s Office asked him to attend the event without detailing what would take place.

Baruah said he met with Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, about a month ago to discuss the bridge. He said Doer had recently returned from Washington after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry about the permit.

“He indicated that he thought it was close and that Secretary Kerry gave him all of the positive signs,” Baruah said.

The decision comes as several lawsuits have been filed to stop the new bridge, which would compete with the privately owned Ambassador Bridge. The Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge and is controlled by Manuel (Matty) Moroun, filed suit in Washington trying to block the span. Moroun spent millions trying to convince Michigan voters in a referendum last November to block the bridge.

Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, recently filed a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court challenging Snyder’s authority to enter into an agreement with Canada without the Legislature’s approval. After legislation authorizing a new bridge failed to get out of a Senate committee in 2011, Snyder bypassed the Legislature and signed a deal with Canadian officials last June that calls for Canada to build the bridge.

The Obama administration has backed a new Detroit bridge crossing since 2009, when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood endorsed the idea, saying it would create thousands of jobs in construction and via additional trade. In January, LaHood said federal approval for the bridge crossing was expected soon.

“We’re just about over the finish line,” LaHood said in January. “They are working on it.”

Canada agreed to front Michigan’s $550 million share of the cost, which will have to be repaid through toll revenue. The Canadians also pledged to reimburse Michigan for any expenses the state Department of Transportation incurs in connecting the new bridge to Interstate 75 through a new international plaza.

The United States and Canada have the largest trading partnership in the world, totaling over $524 billion in merchandise trade in 2010. Thirty-five states have Canada as their largest foreign trade-partner, and 57 percent — $297 billion — of U.S.-Canada trade moves by truck, according to the Michigan application.

Approximately 31 percent of truck transported trade, or $91.4 billion, between the United States and Canada passes through the Detroit River area and reaches markets across the nation.

U.S. and Canadian trade supports over 8 million U.S. jobs; approximately 237,000 Michigan jobs; and 1 in 3 Canadian jobs. The Detroit-Windsor border is the busiest trade corridor on the U.S.-Canada border and the second busiest trade corridor in North America.

Jarvis: ‘King of the world!’

Moroun has lost a lot of lawsuits the last several years. But even when he loses, he wins, because every day he staves off construction of the new bridge, he maintains his lucrative monopoly.

The Windsor Star

Anne Jarvis

It is a pivotal point in the long and controversial quest for a new bridge at the busiest commercial border crossing in North America: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will announce at a news conference in Detroit today that U.S. President Barack Obama has signed the permit to build the new government bridge between Windsor’s Brighton Beach and Delray in west Detroit.

The permit is the last approval required. But will it be the end of the epic battle between the governments of two countries, one province, one state and an 85-year-old man, Matty Moroun, owner of the competing Ambassador Bridge? Even before the permit was signed, it was reported that Moroun was already seeking an injunction against it so a court can hear his latest lawsuit.

A “perpetual and exclusive franchise right.” That’s what Moroun claims in the lawsuit against the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The government can’t build its planned new bridge over the Detroit River because Moroun’s monopoly is sacrosanct. He has supreme and almighty power until the end of time over one of the most important border crossings in the world, key to the economies of two nations and the jobs and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

That’s what Moroun is arguing.

Picture the slightly stooped octogenarian leaning over the rail at the centre of his bridge, arms spread a la Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Titanic, wisps of white hair blowing in the wind: “I’m the king of the world!”

The absurd claim drew a rare good line from Windsor West MP Brian Masse.

“What’s their next step – declaring themselves as their own independent country?” he quipped to The Windsor Star’s Dave Battagello.

After the permit is dealt with, the next step is for Canada, which is paying for the crossing, to start acquiring land. Much of the property needed is owned by, yes, Moroun. It will probably have to be expropriated. And yes, there will indubitably be more lawsuits over that.

Moroun has lost a lot of lawsuits the last several years. But even when he loses, he wins, because every day he staves off construction of the new bridge, he maintains his lucrative monopoly. But get this; the irony is too much: his latest lawsuit, according to a report in The Detroit Free Press, also seeks to stop the U.S. government from delaying approval of the Ambassador Bridge’s proposed twin span.

A Democratic state representative from Detroit has also filed a lawsuit claiming Snyder had no legal right to sign an agreement with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last June to build the new bridge.

Rep. Fred Durhal has received more than $7,000 in campaign contributions from Moroun’s family since 2010. Could that explain his lawsuit? As rich as he is, Moroun doesn’t give money to politicians for nothing. He gives money to politicians to further his interests. By the way, Durhal is running for mayor of Detroit. Elections in the U.S. are expensive. This lawsuit should earn him more campaign contributions from Moroun. (Voters in Detroit should pay attention. The city needs a mayor to represent  its best interests, not the interests of the billionaire who installs the mayor in office.)

And it can’t escape notice that Durhal’s lawyer is Godfrey Dillard. I remember Dillard well from that stunning day when Judge Prentis Edwards of the Third Circuit Court sent Moroun to jail for contempt in flouting an order to complete his share of a highway project with the state. Dillard was Moroun’s lawyer. Quite a coincidence he’s Durhal’s lawyer, too.

Snyder bypassed the legislature to sign the agreement to build the new bridge because he couldn’t get the votes he needed in the Senate, Durhal told the Detroit News. But, as the governor’s office pointed out, that’s not true. The issue was never put to a vote. It never got past the Senate’s economic development committee. The three members of the committee who voted it down got money from Moroun, either directly or from political action committees that got money from him. One got $4,000 directly and another got $535,767 from political action committees.

Durhal also argued that the governor can’t commit the state to pay for a bridge without the approval of legislators. Except, Michigan isn’t paying for the bridge. Canada is. We’re paying the state’s share of $550 million, to be repaid through tolls.

What motivates a person like Moroun? A perennial member of Forbes Magazine’s list of the richest people in the world, with an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion, he has far more money than one person could reasonably spend. He lords over a business empire. He could have worked with government and played a major role in securing the new bridge. He could have been heralded as a forward-thinking businessman who helped usher North American trade into the new century. Instead, his legacy will be this: the man who trampled all over people, busting up neighbourhoods on both sides of the border, in relentless pursuit of his monopoly.

Podcast: Are River Crossing Lawsuits a “Bridge Too Far”?

Michigan is still waiting for a presidential permit to move ahead with construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Meanwhile, a pair of lawsuits have been filed to stop the project. One suit was filed by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge. The other was filed by Detroit mayoral candidate Fred Durhal, a state lawmaker who says Governor Rick Snyder is illegally sidestepping the Legislature. WDET’s Pat Batcheller asked Canadian Consul General Roy Norton when he expects the presidential permit to be granted, and whether there’s any indication that it won’t be. Click here to listen the conversation.