Proposal 6 Could Have Devastating Impact on Local Bridge and Tunnel Projects

Michigan Decides 2012: Will border crossing proposal have unintended consequences for local bridges, tunnels?

By David Eggert |

LANSING, MI – Almost lost in the debate over amending the Michigan Constitution to require public votes before building new border crossings to Canada is a dispute over what Proposal 6 could mean for local governments.

The proposed amendment, which can be read here, would prohibit the state from owning, developing or using funds or resources for “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” unless first approved by voters.

It defines international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles as “any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of January 1, 2012.”

The measure backed by the Ambassador Bridge owners aims to stall or stop a new competing Detroit-Windsor bridge planned by Gov. Rick Snyder and Canada. But opponents of Proposal 6 warn it was written sloppily enough that it could force statewide and local majority votes for non-border crossings in communities across Michigan.

Backers of the People Should Decide amendment say that interpretation is way off base.

“This is only very surgically limited to international crossings not in service at the beginning of the year,” said Mickey Blashfield, director of the People Should Decide ballot drive. “In order to get to that interpretation, you have to ignore the word ‘international’ seven times.”

He is right.

The word appears seven times in the petition, including six times in the proposed new constitutional section itself.

Blashfield accuses those on the other side of creating a bogeyman to get local government officials worried about “a phantom that’s not there.”

But Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says the way “international” is defined is shoddy and does not require a bridge or tunnel to be connected to another country, possibly necessitating both a statewide and local election any time a local project is planned. He adds that the new Detroit-Windsor bridge is the least likely to be affected by Proposal 6 because of the already-signed contract with Canada to build it.

Proposal 6 “could have a very devastating impact on other projects,” Calley said.

He and others opposing the measure also warn that plans for a replacement rail tunnel under the Detroit River could be affected.

Proposal 6, though, specifically mentions only crossings for motor vehicles.

“Motor vehicle” is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an automotive vehicle not operated on rails.”

The proposed constitutional amendment concludes by saying any ambiguity over how to interpret it “shall be resolved in favor of shielding the people from practical or financial burdens associated with state government ownership and development of international bridges and tunnels for motor vehicles.”