The bridge to understanding Snyder

Detroit News

Henry Payne / The Michigan

The Battle of the Bridge is back. With Lansing back in session and the budget on stable footing, the future of a new Detroit-Canada crossing will be on the front-burner. But in reality, it’s been a running dispute between the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Maroun family, and the Canadian government since the Ambassador was built nearly a century ago .

Simply put, Canada is jealous that a private company makes hundreds of millions of dollars off a bridge over its border – the only privately-owned bridge over an international border in North America. Governments build infrastructure, right?

Exploiting 9/11 security fears and trumped up traffic projections (such estimates have been off by millions in the past), the Canadian and U.S. governments (ol’ Uncle Sam is a jealous man too) have teamed up on a strategy to build their own Detroit crossing and finally put Maroun out of business. Their trump card is that Canada won’t authorize any further expansion of the Ambassador should it ever need to expand. Public vs. private. Maroun vs. Canadians. Republicans vs. Democrats.

But one important factor has changed in the stalemate: Michigan’s top GOPer is on the governments’ side. Huh? Why would Governor Snyder, a graduate of the private sector, not naturally ally with private sector Maroun?

The answer, I think, explains who Governor Snyder is. He is not a Republican. He is not a Democrat. He is a businessman. As he has made crystal clear, he believes in running government like a business.

And he feels the new bridge he has negotiated is simply a great business deal. Period. Forget private vs. public. Forget Right vs. Left.

“Snyder has received approval from the Obama administration to count (the Canadian government’s $550 million payment for Michigan’s half of the bridge costs) toward Michigan’s federal match for road funds. As result, the state will be able to leverage approximately $2 billion in federal highway funds for other road and infrastructure projects in the state,” reports Stateline Midwest.

Michigan invests zero. And gets a $2 billion return. And a bridge is in place should traffic numbers ever rise. To Snyder, that’s one heckuva deal. To ANY businessman that’s a heckuva deal.

And it’s a deal that a pol like Jennifer Granholm could never have conceived of.