By Jack Lessenberry
Pretend you are a judge, let me give you some undisputed facts, and then tell me how you would make up your mind.
The top business leaders of this state strongly support a new bridge over the Detroit River. So do the major leaders of both political parties. The bridge wouldn’t cost the taxpayers of Michigan a cent.
What’s more, the bridge would instantly mean billions of dollars and thousands of desperately needed jobs for our poor battered state. Not when it was completed, but right away, right now.
That’s because the federal government has agreed to count money Canada is giving us to cover our costs as state matching money for federal highway funds. That would mean two point two billion dollars to fix our roads and bridges.
Best estimate is that building the bridge would create another ten thousand construction jobs that would last several years.
So should we build it, or not?
Talk about your ultimate no-brainer.
Michigan needs this bridge project desperately. Incidentally, building the bridge would be a good idea even if it weren’t for all the economic benefits I’ve just mentioned. Right now, billions in international trade depends entirely on the aging Ambassador Bridge.
There’s no backup way of transporting the heavy freight that crosses the bridge; one act of terrorism against it could be more deadly to our economy than nine-eleven.
Yet the Republican-controlled legislature has refused to approve this project, despite urging by their Republican governor. They are dragging their feet, holding endless hearings instead.
Why? Because Matty Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, has showered them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, a form of legalized bribery.
Furthermore, in an attempt to confuse the public, Moroun is also spending millions on TV commercials which independent observers have said are essentially nothing more than lies.
Yesterday, the Anderson Economic Group released a new study of the proposal to build a new international bridge — and of a counter-proposal Moroun has made to build a second bridge next to the Ambassador Bridge. That proposal, by the way, is essentially a pipe dream; the government of Canada has indicated they’ll never let him do it.
But what about the other bridge? Let me quote what Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press wrote today: “The upshot of the Anderson Group’s study is this: Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has been lying his pants off about the plan to build a second publicly owned bridge.”
The Anderson Group, by the way, tends to be very conservative and not at all in favor of government spending. But it concluded that the taxpayers are at no risk here, and that the new bridge would relieve the congestion of all those trucks backed up on I-75.
A second new study released by Business Leaders for Michigan shows that when the public is given accurate information, they support the bridge by a two to one margin.
For the legislature not to approve that bridge as quickly as possible seems to me like a form of almost criminal negligence against the welfare of Michigan’s citizens. If there was ever a time when the threat of recalls might be justified, this just might be it.