Announcement on plans to proceed with new public bridge could come this week

By Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau

LANSING – An announcement on plans to proceed with a new public bridge across the Detroit River could come this week, possibly Thursday or Friday.

“We’re getting close,” said Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder.

But Wurfel would not confirm that an agreement on how to proceed with the international bridge has been reached.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder earlier confirmed he was exploring ways to proceed with the bridge without action by the Legislature after a bill to facilitate construction of the bridge was defeated in a Senate committee last fall.

Snyder says a public span from Detroit to Windsor, built about two miles downstream of the Ambassador Bridge, is needed to provide a freeway-to-freeway international connection that would clear a border bottleneck and assure Michigan exporters have access to their largest market. The project is also expected to create thousands of construction jobs.

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun opposes the project as unfair government encroachment on his privately owned bridge. Moroun has spent millions on TV ads, lobbying and campaign donations attacking the project.

The Legislature is expected to adjourn Thursday for a summer break. That could make Friday the most likely day for an announcement.

Any announcement is expected to include officials from the Canadian and U.S. governments. Officials said last week it wasn’t clear whether an announcement would take place in Detroit or Windsor.

The bridge itself is expected to cost about $1 billion and to be privately financed by the contractor selected to build it. Customs plazas and connecting roadways on both sides of the bridge are expected to add more than $2 billion to the total cost.

Canada has offered to front Michigan it $550 million share of the project costs and then recover that amount from Michigan’s share of the bridge tolls.

Snyder and other backers of the project say that means the bridge can be built at no cost to Michigan taxpayers.

A number of options using Snyder’s executive authority have been explored, with an interlocal agreement to create an international bridge authority under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967 seen as the most likely option.