Michigan needs new bridge project

Morouns’ monopoly hurts other businesses

Lansing State Journal

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge is pouring additional millions into his fight to keep a monopoly on bridge traffic at the nation’s busiest commercial border crossing in Detroit. Gov. Rick Snyder must do whatever is needed to build the proposed second bridge, the New International Trade Crossing.

Manuel Moroun, owner of the Detroit International Bridge Co., already has spent millions trying to disrupt efforts by the state’s business community to improve crossing times that are some of the nation’s worst. Snyder, upon his election in 2010, made it clear that the new bridge was one of his top priorities.

Moroun fought back, pouring millions into advertising and campaign coffers and ultimately blocking Snyder’s proposal in a Legislative committee. At one point last year, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network argued that Moroun’s company — which had spent nearly $5 million in about six months — should be required to register as a lobbyist due to the advocacy nature of the advertising it was buying.

The truth is that having a monopoly generates huge income for the Morouns, while at the same time damaging other business owners who can’t move their goods in a timely fashion.

Some $120 billion in goods cross between Canada and Detroit each year — with untold impact on the economy the Great Lakes region. Indeed, both the Ohio House and Senate have passed a resolutions in support of a new bridge in Michigan.

Moroun’s latest effort to protect his monopoly is launching a petition drive to place a question on the November ballot that would, if passed, require a majority of the state’s voters to approve any new bridge project.

Experts in ballot drives say that paying to circulate petitions, which Moroun’s drive will do, costs up to $6 per signature.

To collect enough signatures, Moroun could spend more than $2 million; if the petitions succeed, he’d spend millions more advocating for passage.

Despite Moroun’s arguments that the Detroit-Windsor crossing can’t economically support two bridges, it’s clear the Ambassador Bridge brings in so much that his company can spend it protecting its monopoly on bridge traffic.

The current situation is not acceptable. Snyder has been at work on alternate plans that would keep Moroun from using the Legislature to do his bidding. It’s time for Snyder to get the new bridge moving.

An LSJ editorial