By Scott Held
SOUTHGATE — Gov. Rick Snyder repeatedly criticized Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun during a brief appearance at Monday’s Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber Legislative Forum.
Canadian Consul General Roy Norton, who took aim at an ad campaign opposing a new bridge across the Detroit River, was far more blunt.
“Nothing in those advertisements is true,” he said of TV ads bankrolled by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun. “Everyone but the Morouns seems to recognize the future of this state depends on this bridge.”
The Canadian government and Snyder agreed in June to construct a new bridge about two miles downriver from the Ambassador Bridge. Ottawa would pay for and oversee construction of the new span and recoup the investment with toll revenue. Because the project requires no state expenditures, Snyder did not seek or need the support of the state Legislature.
The deal spawned a petition drive bankrolled by Moroun that ended with Proposal 6, a statewide initiative, that, if approved, would amend the state constitution and require a majority of voters’ approval before any new international crossings could be constructed.
While Norton was in town to sell the benefits of the bridge and deflect what he called lies in Moroun’s ad campaign, the governor was stumping for the proposal’s defeat.
“The goal on the other side is to stop it or slow it down,” he said of efforts by Moroun to delay the construction of the new span. “It’s not right that a special interest can go out and override what is in the best interest of 10 million people.”
In addition to the jobs created by the construction project, Snyder emphasized the benefits the new bridge would bring in terms of allowing more goods to flow between the state and Canada. Almost $700 billion in trade moved across the Michigan-Canada border last year.
“This is a great jobs creator,” he added.
A new suspension bridge would begin in the Delray neighborhood of southwest Detroit and new ramps would route traffic off I-96 and I-75 to and from customs and toll plazas. Norton said a similar ramp would be constructed to route trucks onto and off Highway 401 in Windsor.
The Detroit Three automakers and an array of business groups have stressed the need for a second bridge to ease backups at the border created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Ambassador Bridge management had proposed a second span running alongside the current bridge, but the Canadian government balked, citing fears the new bridge would further congest an already clogged Huron Church Road in Windsor.
Norton took an additional swipe at Moroun, citing an almost decade long court battle while the state waited for his contractors to finish the Gateway Project to streamline traffic flow onto and off the Ambassador Bridge.
“These are the same scoundrels who reneged on the Gateway Project,” he said. “They didn’t fulfill their obligation until they had been thrown into jail a couple of times.”
The project finally opened late this summer and was several years behind schedule. Moroun and Ambassador Bridge President Dan Stamper were briefly jailed on contempt charges before the project concluded.
Snyder, billed as a special guest, received a standing ovation from the forum. Along with opposing Proposal 6, he also urged voters to oppose four other statewide ballot proposals, but to keep the state’s emergency financial manager law intact.