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

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.”

###

‘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.

###

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 415 other followers