Paul Egan / Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Lansing— A proposed bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge would alleviate border congestion, but a new span beside the Ambassador would not, according to a study released Tuesday.
Still, reliable traffic projections remain a major question mark in determining whether either new bridge across the Detroit River is financially feasible, says the report by Anderson Economic Group.
“We did not find projections that provide estimates of traffic that would make the project financially feasible,” the report said of the New International Trade Crossing backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and most Michigan business and labor leaders.
The report says a major plus for the public bridge proposal is that it would provide additional customs capacity and direct freeway connections. Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s plan for a second private bridge beside the Ambassador Bridge, which he owns, would rely on existing customs facilities and not have a direct freeway connection on the Canadian side.
“Currently, delays at customs (are) the primary bottleneck for traffic crossing the border,” the report says.
The report says that if adequate protections are included in bridge authority legislation and bonding documents, Michigan taxpayers would not be on the hook for the costs of the project.
“The only risk to taxpayers in both projects is higher tolls paid to cross the bridge if traffic volumes fall short of projections,” the report says.
Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, said his firm independently put more than 100 staff hours into the study to provide an unbiased source of information.
Snyder is pushing legislation to create an authority that would call for bids on a bridge he says would be publicly owned but privately financed, built and managed. He wants a vote by the end of October but a Senate committee has scheduled hearings through that entire month.
Republican lawmakers have generally opposed the project. Democrats have supported it.
Moroun says the public bridge is an unfair encroachment by government on his private business. Snyder says the bridge is needed to relieve bottlenecks and assure present and future access to Michigan’s largest trading partner.
The total project cost, including customs plazas and road connections on both sides of the river, is estimated at about $3.6 billion. The Canadian government has offered to cover Michigan’s $550 million share of the cost and recover that money from the state’s share of bridge tolls.