Bridge: Let’s get the ball moving

Press & Guide

OPINION

In the fall, it was the Democrats who punted when it came to pushing the button on a new, publicly funded bridge to Canada. Now, it appears the Republicans in power in Lansing can’t pull the trigger, either, as political paralysis sets in on one of the most important decisions of 2011. And that is shameful.

Given the financial structuring within state Senate Bills 410 and 411, currently on hold in the state capital, both of which target building a new bridge to Canada from Detroit’s Delray area to a point south of Windsor, this decision should be somewhat of a no-brainer.

The publicly funded bridge plan, first known as the Detroit River International Crossing and since changed to the New International Trade Crossing has drawn strong support from vastly different sectors — the mayor of Detroit, as well as many key suburban leaders, unions and corporations.

Yet, when the Republican Party dominated the November 2010 elections, lame-duck leaders opted not to push the project forward. They put it on the shelf for 2011.

Little has changed — and everything has changed — since last fall.

On one hand, new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder quickly signed off on the project and pushed for its implementation. However, he doesn’t have enough support in his own party, much less opposition Democrats. Republicans too often are looking for any way not to spend money, while Democrats, now in the minority, are looking for political deals. It makes for a pathetic situation.

All of this has left the door wide open for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun to perform a strategic end run, a campaign of misinformation against a publicly funded second span that he doesn’t want. Why? Because he wants to build a privately owned second span himself, something that has a snowball’s chance of ever happening.

Nevertheless, the more Lansing delays and the longer the second bridge plan stalls, the more money Moroun makes — and the more chance there is that the whole plan falls apart.

If that were the case, it would be shameful.

Not only has the publicly funded plan for a second span brought together traditional foes for what they believe is a common improvement, but the Canadian government also has agreed to foot the bill for the bridge. It would be repaid through tolls from the span. And if the projected tolls did not add up, the plan would not proceed.

Canada wants a second span to ease traffic through downtown Windsor. It wants to send international traffic as directly as possible from  Ontario’s King’s Highway 401 to Michigan and vice versa. Canadian officials have said they will not agree to any privately funded bridge plan, especially from Detroit directly to Windsor. In other words, they want no part of Moroun.

The United States needs the second span for many reasons, not the least of which is to prevent a terrorist attack, an accident or maintenance issues from shutting down North America’s busiest trade crossing.

Michigan needs the new crossing to improve costly business traffic across the border — and creating more jobs in an economic downturn isn’t a bad appetizer.

Our officials in Lansing need to get it in gear. Michigan has waited long enough for a new bridge to Canada. It’s time to put petty politics and misinformation aside and approve the second bridge plan. Let’s get the ball rolling.