Guest column: Michigan needs bridge to be built

By Jackson Citizen Patriot staff

Will this be the year Gov. Rick Snyder bridges his differences with the Legislature and builds a new bridge to Canada?

State lawmakers ended productive year without addressing the need to build the International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. This is a missed opportunity that would be a major job creator and economic driver for our state.

Vision, leadership and persistence are needed to ultimately build the bridge. To date, the governor has supplied the vision and leadership. Now, persistence is needed to ensure that the new public-private bridge is built.

That’s one of the lessons to be learned from how a previous governor and Legislature that came together to build a bridge — and our state — over a half century ago.

Fifty five years ago Michigan’s governor, lawmakers, business, labor and residents across the state cheered the opening of the Mackinac Bridge, connecting our two beautiful peninsulas.

Like today, the quest to build the Mackinac Bridge produced naysayers who questioned its need and feasibility, and claimed the financing “scheme” to pay for the construction of the bridge was unworkable.

Yet our political leaders then, chief among them Gov. G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, were able to overcome the obstacles and build the bridge. Today, we have a beautiful span that stands as a reminder of our capability to overcome insurmountable odds.

The New International Trade Crossing, of course, is being held hostage by the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge, Matty Moroun, and his money and legislative influence.

Michigan should be building a second bridge and putting people to work, not playing political games. Building the new bridge benefits our economic future and makes all the sense in the world.

Canada is our largest trading partner. International trade creates thousands of jobs in Michigan and countless more across the U.S. The case has been made to build another international bridge crossing — and we want it in Michigan, not some other state.

A new bridge has deep support from business, labor, Snyder and all of Michigan’s living former governors, Republican and Democrat alike. It’s time to build the public/private New International Trade Crossing and get Michigan working again.

In his first State of the State address  a year ago, Snyder surprised many when he called for the building of this bridge. To date, political gamesmanship and lots of Moroun’s money have dug a moat around accomplishing this goal.

The governor has provided the rationale, vision, and leadership to build this needed bridge. Time will tell if he has the persistence to persevere.

Tom Watkins is a business and educational consultant. He served as Michigan’s state superintendent of schools from 2001 to 2005.