Latest bridge ad is full of more distortions than facts

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press Business

Like political attack ads, the Ambassador Bridge owners’ latest TV ads attacking Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed public bridge offer a blend of fact, half-truths, and outright distortion.

The claim: The most recent ad opens with a shot of a woman worried about money as she writes checks for a pile of bills. A voice-over then says that government bureaucrats want to write a $2-billion check for Snyder’s proposed bridge to Canada.

The ad continues that citizens can save themselves $100 million a year by signing a petition to put an Ambassador Bridge-backed referendum on the November ballot to require a public vote on any new bridge or tunnel. The ad is paid for by an Ambassador Bridge-funded effort called the People Should Decide.

Fact check: The proposed New International Trade Crossing bridge project costs about $2 billion, but most of that will be paid for by Canada or the U.S. government. Even Michigan’s $550 million up-front share would be paid for by Canada and paid back through tolls, not by Michigan taxpayers.

The claim: The ad also says the Michigan Senate voted down Snyder’s plan and that the governor wants to go around the Legislature.

Fact check: The full Senate never voted on the proposal. One Senate committee voted against it. But it’s true that Snyder now appears ready to rely on an agreement with Canada to build the bridge, bypassing the legislative roadblock in Lansing.

The claim: Finally, the ad says Snyder’s bridge proposal will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year, a figure the Ambassador Bridge owners claim would be needed to cover shortfalls in bridge tolls used to pay back construction costs.

Fact check: That’s false. Snyder and other leaders have said repeatedly that the agreement is written in a way to protect Michigan taxpayers. Any shortfall in revenues will be borne by the private operator hired to build and run the bridge.

Overall assessment: Like earlier such ads, this one offers more distortion than fact.