New International Trade Crossing bridge would ease border congestion, study says

BY KATHERINE YUNG
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

The Detroit International Bridge Co.’s proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada would not eliminate the current congestion on both sides of the border but the New International Trade Crossing bridge would do so, according to an independent study released today by the Anderson Economic Group.

Anderson’s analysis also found that Michigan taxpayers would not be on the hook for money borrowed to build either bridge. However, tolls to cross any new bridge would need to be increased if traffic volumes fall short of expectations.

The East Lansing-based economic consulting firm compared the two competing bridge proposals, which are at the center of a fierce battle between Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and Gov. Rick Snyder. Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge wants to build a second span over the Detroit River while Snyder is backing the New International Trade Crossing bridge that would be operated by a public authority and compete against the Ambassador Bridge.

The Anderson report was not done for any clients and stops short of favoring one proposal over the other. The report “makes points in favor of both proposals,” said Alex Rosaen, an Anderson consultant and one of the study’s authors.

Dan Stamper, president of Detroit International Bridge, declined to comment because he had not seen the report. The Senate Economic Development Committee is holding hearings about the proposals.

The study noted that the New International Trade Crossing faces a higher risk of suffering from a revenue shortfall from lower traffic volumes than Moroun’s proposed bridge. That’s because Detroit International Bridge could close the Ambassador Bridge during slow periods and use only the new bridge when necessary.

The publicly operated bridge is also a much larger and more expensive project than what Moroun wants to build, costing an estimated $2.2 billion compared with $400 million to $500 million for the privately owned span.

But the Anderson study said Moroun’s second bridge would not fully resolve congestion problems, the main reason for building a new bridge. Rosaen said the New International Trade is a more extensive proposal that does a little more in terms of routing traffic and involves more new infrastructure such as highway connections and additional customs booths. Canadian officials have indicated they would not support Moroun’s plans for a second span.