New bridge to Canada will be built, governor says

“This is the case study of one special interest trying to override the interests of many thousands and millions of people,” Snyder said Wednesday. “But I can tell you this case study will have a happy ending, that we will get a bridge built.”

BY DAWSON BELL AND TOM WALSH
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS

Gov. Rick Snyder was back on the sunny side of the street Wednesday on prospects for building a new bridge to Canada, saying he expects action on the project in the next few months, not the next few years.

After two weeks ago suggesting “a cooling-off period” after his proposal went down in defeat in a state Senate committee, Snyder said at a session in Ottawa with Canadian officials that “we are continuing our process in a relentless fashion.”

Snyder also told Bloomberg News that he will encourage bridge supporters to mount a grassroots campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the project. The governor and other bridge supporters have complained that a multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising campaign sponsored by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge that attacked the “government bridge” poisoned public opinion in the months leading up to the Senate committee vote.

“This is the case study of one special interest trying to override the interests of many thousands and millions of people,” Snyder said Wednesday. “But I can tell you this case study will have a happy ending, that we will get a bridge built.”

But he offered no details about what a pro-bridge campaign would look like or who would pay for it.

The Detroit-Windsor crossing is the busiest in the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship, with more than $128 billion in shipments and 8,000 trucks crossing there each day, according to Canadian government data. Truck traffic is expected to triple over 30 years, the country’s transport department estimates.

But opponents of the new bridge cast doubt on those projections and argued the $2-billion project is likely to become a boondoggle and burden on taxpayers. Canada has agreed to cover Michigan’s share of bridge construction, and backers of the project insist that state taxpayers would be entirely off the hook in any event.

Tom Shields, spokesman for the coalition of labor and business groups supporting a new, publicly owned bridge, said later Wednesday that he was encouraged by Snyder’s comments. But he said he wasn’t aware of any discussions held so far about a counter-campaign.

“Everybody would like to see an effort to get the truth out there,” Shields said. “But we don’t have any money, and we’re going up against a billionaire,” a reference to Manuel (Matty) Moroun, head of the bridge company.

“The governor has to decide how he wants to proceed … and we’ll pitch in.”