Purchase of first U.S. properties for new border bridge close

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

Detroit’s city council is being asked to approve the sale of 301 properties needed for a new border crossing bridge to Windsor.

They will be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side if Detroit council approves the request by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, as expected within the next 10 days.

The properties are largely vacant, “tax-reverted” parcels with a total price tag of $1.4 million.

The state of Michigan would be the new owner of the properties, which the Canadian government would buy from it for the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project. Ottawa has budgeted $631 million over the next two years for the project, including the land purchases.

Canada has committed to paying Michigan’s share of the project cost, up to $550 million, to buy land and build a feeder road linking the bridge plaza in Detroit to the I-75 freeway.

The government expects to recoup its investment through tolls.

The Windsor-Detroit Detroit Bridge Authority was established last month to get the project moving. It has already staged a handful of meetings and has plans to establish an office in Windsor and begin hiring about three dozen staff in the coming weeks.

“The WDBA continues to work with our Michigan colleagues to advance this important project,” said authority CEO Michael Cautillo said Thursday. “All involved are encouraged that the issue will be considered by Detroit’s council.”

The DRIC bridge, scheduled to open in 2020, will link the downriver industrial communities of Brighton Beach in Windsor and Delray in Detroit.

Nearly all property required on the Canadian side for the project has been acquired by Transport Canada.

In total, there are roughly 1,000 residential and commercial properties that need to be expropriated and purchased for the bridge, plaza and feeder roads in Delray.

It is anticipated the overall cost for those properties will be about $300 million — roughly the same amount spent in Windsor to buy land for the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway.

The parkway – the new border feeder highway that will link with the DRIC bridge – is expected to be completed late next year.

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

‘Major announcement’ to be made about new Windsor-Detroit bridge

A “major announcement” will be made Wednesday in Windsor regarding the New International Trade Crossing.

A source tells CTV Windsor that Canada’s Transport Minister, Lisa Raitt and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will announce the bodies that will oversee the NITC project. A bridge authority and an international authority will be responsible for things like land acquisitions and procurement going forward.

The announcement will be made at the Canadian Club Heritage Centre in Windsor at 10:30 a.m.

On Monday, Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr delayed the proposed transfer of 301 properties to the Michigan Land Bank in exchange for $1.4 million from the Canadian Government.The city of Detroit is currently under bankruptcy protection.

The $2 billion NITC is expected to open in 2020.

Originally posted by CTV Windsor

Announcement Wednesday on new authority to oversee Detroit-Windsor bridge

Leonard N. Fleming and David Sheparson
The Detroit News

Gov. Rick Snyder and Canada’s minister of transport are expected Wednesday to announce the formation of a six-member authority to oversee the construction of a new public bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

Snyder’s office said he will attend a 10:30 a.m. news conference about the New International Trade Crossing at the Canadian Club Heritage Centre in Windsor with Canada’s Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who has been involved in discussions with Canada and U.S. officials about a new bridge, said Tuesday the new board will hold its first meeting Wednesday and said the bridge is making progress.

“This is about jobs. We can’t move goods. We can’t compete internationally without infrastructure,” Stabenow said in an interview in her Capitol Hill office.

Snyder has reportedly selected the three U.S. members and it is not clear who is choosing the three Canadians. The bridge will be owned by a Canadian “crown corporation” placing Canadians in charge of the day-to-day operation of the bridge, but oversight and ownership will remain joint between the two countries.

Stabenow, who has met and talked repeatedly to Raitt, praised Canada’s role in getting the new bridge

“We’re lucky to a willing partner that understands how important this is,” Stabenow said.

The bridge, which is to be two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, isn’t scheduled to be completed until at least 2020. It still doesn’t have $250 million from the federal government to build a Detroit customs plaza, and the Obama administration has yet to try to budget money for it.

Stabenow said there are discussions about what a plaza would look like and possible costs. The board will look at options to pay for the plaza, she said.

“I would expect in the next few months we will have it worked out” as to how the new customs plaza will be financed, Stabenow added.

Douglas George, Canada’s consul general in Detroit, said he couldn’t speak about the specifics of the news conference but said his country and Michigan are “proceeding with the necessary steps to oversee the construction and running of the bridge.”

“I think the underlying message is that this is an infrastructure project that will be a benefit to both sides of the border,” George said. “The Canadian government has made it clear what the process is. We’re moving to the next step.”

The Economic Alliance of Michigan, a nonprofit that advocates for companies and unions, said Tuesday it is expecting the governor and Canadian transport minister to announce the formation of a bridge authority and an international authority.

Both bodies could help with land acquisition and other construction matters that are dictated by the crossing agreement signed in June 2012 by Snyder and Canada’s transport minister.

“It would be great if they were to announce the authorities tomorrow,” Bret Jackson, the president of the Economic Alliance of Michigan, said in a Tuesday statement. “These are the people who are going to make the decisions as to who gets hired, what the construction contracts look like. We hope this is an opportunity to use local workers and businesses to supply goods and services.”

Originally posted by The Detroit News

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

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