By Robert Uldricks
This year in Michigan I’ve noticed a disturbing new trend that I call “bridge bashing,” and it has manifested itself as Proposal 6 on the November ballot. Approval of the proposal by voters would require a public vote on any future bridges to Canada. It would be a crippling blow to Michigan’s ability to change and grow.
You’ve probably seen commercials on TV saying, “The people should decide,” and the bridge will be a fiscal black hole with no benefits. Who is behind all these ads? Liberals? No. Conservatives? No.
The bridge bashing has been spearheaded by Manuel “Matty” Moroun, owner of the Detroit International Bridge Company. According to Forbes Magazine, he is worth 1.5 billion dollars.
That can buy a lot of advertisements, like the ones run by Let People Decide. One ad claims a new bridge will cost taxpayers 100 million dollars a year. This is, of course, ignoring the aid from the Canadian government and the hundreds of millions of dollars the bridge will generate as workers move to the area to construct and maintain the bridge, along with savings on transportation costs.
The reason why Moroun is doing this is because another bridge would pose competition to his 82-year-old Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. He has hired a horde of publicists to manipulate the people of Michigan and Ontario into rejecting any future bridges.
Most of the truck shipping that passes between Michigan and Ontario goes over his bridge, and he collects on that big time. His alternative to a bridge is adding more lanes to the Ambassador.
That would be cheaper in the short run, but shipping will only increase in the future. Are we going to have a 20-lane bridge in 2030 to accommodate so much trade? Will the streets of Windsor change to prevent traffic congestion? Who’s going to pay for it?
Moroun hasn’t come up with answers, just objections.
I’ve been over the Ambassador a few times and I was not very impressed with the wait or the transition onto the streets of Windsor. When you have millions of cars and trucks crossing every year delays like that mean millions of dollars lost in productivity.
Michigan’s biggest trading partner is Ontario. Billions of dollars worth of goods leave Michigan and go into Canada each year. We need more infrastructure to help that relationship grow and flourish in the future. One man’s monopoly is not more valuable that the health of an entire state’s economy.
Beyond the economic consequences, what does rejecting a new bridge mean for us as Americans? Let me take you back 60 years.
“The bridge that couldn’t be built,” that’s what the Mackinac Bridge was. Architecture on that scale and in that location, the Straits of Mackinac, was deemed impossible by most people, until we built it. It was a monumental achievement, a testament to American industry and humanity’s power over the elements. It was the second longest suspension bridge in the world.
I make the journey over the Mackinac Bridge several times a year, sometimes even zipping over to Canada across the International Bridge. It boggles the mind to think of our state without those bridges, and yet Detroit gets only one.
So if Proposal 6 passes and then another onslaught of manipulation makes us reject the new bridge, what does that say about Michigan? Are we done building big projects? Do we just hold on to what was and stop growing? Even if Proposal 6 passes, I’ll support a new bridge and so should you.