Snyder, Canadian and U.S. officials meet to discuss new Detroit River bridge

Crain’s Detroit Business

By Bill Shea

Gov. Rick Snyder met privately in Windsor this morning with top Canadian and U.S. officials to discuss the proposed publicly owned Detroit River bridge.

What was discussed hasn’t been disclosed. The stalled $3.1 billion plan would connect I-75 and Highway 401 between Detroit and Windsor with a joint U.S.-Canadian bridge called New International Trade Crossing.

Also at the 2½-hour meeting in an office at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building were U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, Canadian federal transportation minister Denis Lebel, Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary John Porcari and a deputy administrator of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the Windsor Star reported.

Canadian officials told the newspaper that the bridge project was the topic of the meeting but offered no details.

Ken Silfven, Snyder’s press secretary, confirmed via email this afternoon that the governor met with the other officials to discuss the NITC.

“It’s part of the ongoing dialogue we’ve been having with our Canadian partners, but there’s really nothing to report at this time,” Silfven wrote. “We’ll keep the discussion going and remain very confident that this critical project will become a reality.”

The NITC project, which would feature joint public ownership of a bridge financed, built and operated by a private-sector concessionaire, has been blocked in the Michigan Legislature by Republicans who question its need and the supporting data for it.

Snyder has suggested it may be possible to get the bridge built without going through the Legislature.

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun has spent more than $5 million in TV ads opposing the proposed new span as unneeded and unfair competition to his privately owned bridge. He’s also given heavily to legislators who opposed the bridge and has litigated against it.

The NITC bridge would be about two miles downriver from Moroun’s span, which he’s owned since 1979. The public bridge plan enjoys wide support from the business community, and its supporters say it’s needed to bolster and protect trade, create jobs and handle future border traffic needs.

Moroun’s own $1 billion plan to twin his bridge remains stalled because of the lack of Canadian and U.S. federal approvals.