by Tim Martin
LANSING, Mich. — The fate of legislation that would allow Michigan to get involved with a partnership to build a new bridge linking Detroit and Canada remained uncertain Tuesday after another day of testimony on the proposal.
The Republican-led Senate Economic Development Committee had expected a possible vote on the hotly contested proposal Wednesday. But that appeared unlikely after Tuesday’s hearing, said Sen. Mike Kowall, a Republican from Oakland County’s White Lake Township and chairman of the committee.
Kowall acknowledged there may be not enough votes on the committee to approve the measure and send it to the Senate floor at this point.
Bridge supporters could let the committee continue work on the proposal, or bypass the committee and discharge the bill directly to the floor for a vote of the full, 38-member Senate. If that fails, it’s possible Republican Gov. Rick Snyder — a supporter of the bridge project — could try to bypass the Legislature and authorize the state to get involved with the project on his own.
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor’s intent and preference is to work with the Legislature to authorize the project, called the New International Trade Crossing.
“He’s continuing to make the case the NITC is the right thing for Michigan,” Wurfel said.
Many businesses, including Michigan’s auto companies, support building a new Detroit-Windsor bridge to aid passenger and commercial traffic. The plan would involve a public authority to oversee the project, which would be backed by private investors. Michigan would rely on $550 million from Canada for related improvements, a loan that could be repaid through bridge tolls.
The new bridge would be built near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor. The private owners of the Ambassador Bridge oppose the new bridge and want to expand their own operation.
Ambassador Bridge owners say a publicly supported bridge would unfairly compete with their own and could leave Michigan taxpayers liable if the project doesn’t pan out.
Supporters of the new bridge say the legislation is crafted to make sure Michigan taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the project.