Editorial: The big stall continues on a bridge that clearly should be built

Detroit Free Press


Another false start Wednesday tripped up legislation for a publicly built bridge across the Detroit River as lawmakers balked at new language aimed at protecting Detroit’s Delray neighborhood.

No question, as the anchor zone for the U.S. end of the span, Delray’s concerns need to be addressed. But the delay, perpetrated by Republican legislators who really just oppose the bridge, is another maneuver to stall what could — and should — be one of the most important public works projects in Michigan history.

It also prolongs an inane and unnecessary debate. The new bridge would be good for both the U.S. and Canada, would help capitalize on trade that will only increase over the near century-long life of the bridge, create thousands of construction jobs in a state that desperately needs work, and ensure, from a national security perspective, that Detroit has sufficient border crossings.

The bridge has amassed a dizzying array of support from a broad set of interests in Michigan and Ontario. All recognize the public value of building a new crossing. Business groups (such as the Detroit Regional Chamber and Michigan Chamber of Commerce) are backing it. So are labor unions. Foreign and domestic automakers are on board. Michigan governors, Democrat and Republican, dating back to William Milliken all support the new bridge.

The only opposition comes from Manuel (Matty) Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, and the people he’s paying to help protect his monopoly crossing. Analysts. Lobbyists. Legislators. Moroun has spread cash liberally, and lies just as easily.

The Morouns have waged a scare campaign against the new bridge, saying it would cost taxpayers billions and actually hurt Michigan’s efforts to get other road projects completed.

None of it is true, and, in fact, money being lent by Canada to Michigan to help build the bridge will leverage billions in federal transportation dollars for use elsewhere in the state.

Michigan desperately needs members of the Legislature, in particular members of the Senate Economic Development Committee, where the bridge legislation has been stuck, to start ignoring Moroun’s smears.

Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, who chairs the committee, has opposed the legislation and has jumped at every opportunity to derail it. Wednesday’s dodge could kick a vote back weeks, or longer.

But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, a supporter, needs to keep the pressure on for a vote before this Legislature adjourns.

There’s really nothing more to discuss. The new bridge is the right thing — for everyone but the Morouns. The sooner the Senate can move it ahead, the better for Michigan.