By Jeff T. Wattrick | MLive.com
What would be the purpose of the Ambassador Bridge’s proposed second-span? Is it envisioned as a replacement for the existing bridge, an expansion of the Ambassador Bridge’s capacity, or something in between?
The answer is hard to pin down. As Canadian Consul General Roy Norton was making his case for the New International Trade Crossing, he cited the Detroit International Bridge’s Company’s desire to twin the Ambassador as evidence that even the NITC’s fiercest critics acknowledge that more capacity is needed at the border.
August 2, MLive: In fact, Mr. Moroun acknowledges that in the sense that they want to build a six-lane additional bridge adjacent to their existing one. They’re of the view there’s need for six more lanes because they propose to continue to operate their four-lanes.
We’re proposing that six-lanes be built. So the issue becomes not demand or need for an additional six-lanes, it becomes where it’s built. I think they get hoisted on their own argumentation. Clearly there is consensus between the government of the United States and the government of Canada, the Governor of Michigan, the government of Ontario, and the owners of the Ambassador Bridge on the need for additional capacity.
But, wait a second. When the DIBC’s Matthew Moroun talked to us last month, he described the second span serving as the primary bridge while the original span would be, more or less, a back-up.
July 18, MLive: After the second span is open and traffic is relocated, the current span will be closed, maintenance and renovations are much faster, safer, and 50-70% less expensive. The cost of maintaining the bridge is much more expensive when you have traffic crossing concurrently. It makes more economic sense for us to invest $500 million to complete the second span and close the current span at a fraction of the cost. After it is refurbished, it can be used for emergency purposes, community uses such as marathons or ceremonial use, and if traffic in future years warrants the use of the additional span, it can be used for that purpose.
If warranted in the future, the DIBC would operate both bridges for regular traffic, but in the short-run, it’s clear from the statement above that the second bridge is intended to be the primary road.
I added a note in the Norton interview indicating Moroun’s statement to us about DIBC’s intentions for the second-span. However, in an email after the interview was published, Norton cited an exchange between Moroun and Senator Mike Nofs at the June 16 Senate Economic Development Committee to back up his assertion about capacity. He has a point.
June 16, Michigan Senate: Nofs: “If you get the new one built, it would stay open. Would your old span stay open?”
Moroun: “We’d follow the same plan as the State did at Blue Water. We’d build the new span. The existing facilities on both sides would connect to it; it’s already prepared for that. We’d close down the old span, completely rehabilitate it at a fraction of the cost of rehabilitating it with traffic on it, we’d open it back up, and use the two spans concurrently.”
The repairs-for-closure plan is consistent in both answers. While Moroun’s Senate testimony about concurrent use doesn’t completely contradict our interview, it doesn’t completely jibe either.
The Blue Water Bridge operates both spans for regular traffic. Using that model, one must assume, a twinned Ambassador Bridge would operate all 10 lanes for cars and trucks. That would more than double the present lane capacity, though it would change plaza capacity.
However, if the original bridge is used initially for “emergency purposes, community uses…or ceremonial use” after it’s reopened, then that concurrent use would be very different from the Blue Water model. What’s more, it would essentially expand lane capacity from four to just six.