Detroit Bridge Debate Spreads to Jackson

Lt. Governor Brian Calley and a representative from the Ambassador Bridge squared off in an informational session that felt like more of a debate at times.

By Alex Goldsmith

A proposed second Detroit-Windsor crossing is stirring up plenty of argument in Michigan’s legislature.

Tuesday night, the debate was taken to voters in Jackson in an informational meeting hosted by Rep. Mike Shirkey (R – Clarklake) and Rep. Earl Poleski (R – Jackson).

On one side is Governor Snyder. He is supporting a $2 billion proposal known as the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) that would build the bridge about 2 miles away from the current Ambassador Bridge crossing. Under that proposal, Canada would pay for Michigan’s share of the bridge project and get their money back in the form of toll revenue.

That $550 million contribution would be matched with $2.2 billion in federal funds, money Michigan may not have been able to match otherwise.

“We’re having difficulty matching the amount to get federal dollars [here],” said Lt. Governor Brian Calley. “This project solves that problem for the next 5 to 10 years.”

The bridge would be built and operated by a private contractor.

The Governor and supporters of the NITC plan say Michigan taxpayers wouldn’t be liable for a dime of building or operating the bridge, even if the project ultimately fails to turn an expected profit.

On the other side is Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, currently the only bridge crossing in Detroit.

He wants to build a second crossing right next to his current crossing. Moroun argues that taxpayers have already spent money, citing a $40 million state study on a proposed crossing, and taxpayers would not be liable if his private company builds it for a fraction of what the NITC project would cost ($550 million vs. $2 billion).

Moroun also argues that his project would be less disruptive to businesses because it would be built in the same place as his current bridge.

Mickey Blashfield with the Ambassador Bridge says the traffic simply isn’t there to justify a second bridge where the state wants it.

“The only way they can make anywhere near the numbers that they project is to take 70 percent of our traffic,” said Blashfield.

Both Lt. Governor Calley and Blashfield presented their cases to Jackson voters in Tuesday night’s informational session turned informal debate.

Ultimately the issue is expected to play out in the state House and Senate over the remainder of the legislative year.