By John Kennett
Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle paid a visit to Midland on Friday.
Steudle, who previously served as state transportation director, touched on a variety of topics headed by Proposal 6, which addresses the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, when he spoke at the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Up! Midland event. The bridge would be built in addition to the Ambassador Bridge to handle the volume of trade that crosses the border.
“We need a new bridge and frankly, it needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said Steudle.
However, Manuel ‘Matty’ Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, has spent millions on television ads opposing the building of the new international crossing, stating that the citizens of Michigan will be responsible for the cost of the bridge.
But the agreement that Gov. Rick Snyder signed with Canada states that Canada will incur all expenses.
“This campaign season, if nothing else, should educate people that we can’t believe everything we see on TV,” said Steudle. “At the bottom of page one of the agreement, the very last sentence says, ‘The State of Michigan is not responsible for any costs of this crossing.’”
Presently, $70 billion of trade flows between Michigan and Canada.
“One in eight jobs in Southeast Michigan is tied to trade,” said Steudle. “In Mid-Michigan and West Michigan, it is one in seven jobs that is tied to trade. Trade is very important to us.”
On a national level, almost $600 billion in trade passes between the U.S. and Canada.
“Thirty-four other states depend on the border crossings of Michigan,” said Steudle. “If this bridge and border crossing closes, 34 states are going to feel it and they are going to feel it fast. It is the largest bottleneck in the Pan-American corridor all the way down to Florida.”
Instead of traversing through the streets of Windsor and Detroit, the NITC would provide a freeway to freeway connection.
“From a logistic standpoint this is essential,” said Steudle. “It is not dumping into a city street in Windsor. Would you want to double the amount of traffic in your city, into your main street or downtown Midland?”
The NITC is not the first time that Canada and Michigan have entered into an agreement to build a bridge.
“Fifty years ago, we did this exact same thing in Sault Ste. Marie with the International Bridge,” said Steudle. “For that bridge, Michigan sold the bonds, Michigan bought the bonds, Michigan paid for the bonds. It took us 40 years of toll revenue to pay the bonds back.”
The NITC will be built, financed and eventually managed by private companies, meaning 10,000 construction jobs.
“When you have the whole thing built, we will have 30,000,” said Steudle. “(The NITC) will attain an additional 25,000 long-term jobs. It is a tremendous opportunity for us to put a national piece of infrastructure in our backyard that will help our businesses all across this state.”
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