Opposing points of view on Prop 6: New bridge will create jobs, fortify Michigan’s economic future

Detroit Free Press

John A. James knows that time isn’t just money; it’s also survival.

As chairman and CEO of Detroit-based James Group International, he works in an unforgiving business that doesn’t tolerate missed deadlines. From their Fort Street headquarters, James and his team must get customers what they need when they need it. When you’re part of the global supply chain, you’re only as good as your last on-time delivery.

That’s why his family-owned, 41-year-old multimodal logistics company supports the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. And that’s why it’s part of a broad coalition opposing Proposal 6.

The NITC will help Michigan compete globally. Modern infrastructure that allows farmers and businesses to access foreign markets is vital if we are to reap the benefits that come from exporting our abundant agricultural and manufactured products. Groups ranging from organized labor to the Big Three back the NITC because of its importance to Michigan.

About 218,000 jobs in our state are tied to Michigan-Canada trade. The NITC provides a state-of-the-art, strategically located crossing that enhances this $70-billion-a-year trade relationship.

Unfortunately, Proposal 6 doesn’t consider Michigan’s future. It preserves the lucrative monopoly enjoyed by the Ambassador Bridge owners, who are bankrolling the proposal and spending millions on deceptive advertising.

Proposal 6 supporters say there’s no such thing as a “free bridge.” Of course the bridge will be paid for — but not by Michigan taxpayers. It will be designed, built and operated by the private sector. Canada is graciously agreeing to foot the bill for Michigan’s share of the project and will be repaid by tolls on its side of the border. Our legally binding agreement makes this clear; Michigan taxpayers will not pay for this project. Here are a few other facts to consider:

• The NITC won’t put anyone out of business. In fact, the Ambassador Bridge owners can join other qualified vendors in bidding on the project.

• The NITC will generate a demand for more than 11,000 jobs during its construction. Nearly 1,400 permanent jobs will be created for the bridge’s operation, and private investment generated by the NITC is estimated to create 6,800 permanent direct and indirect jobs.

• Only U.S. and Canadian steel will be used to build the bridge.

• Michigan can leverage Canada’s $550-million contribution to the project as matching funds for U.S. federal aid on Michigan highway projects. That’s great news for motorists.

• About 99% of commercial traffic that uses the Detroit-Windsor corridor is forced to use the Ambassador Bridge. This corridor is the worst traffic bottleneck in the Pan American Freeway system. The NITC would provide a direct freeway-to-freeway connection between Michigan and Canada, bypassing residential areas.

• Having only one Detroit-Windsor bridge jeopardizes our economic security. In December 2010, we saw how fragile the current system is when a snowstorm halted trade across Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge. This resulted in significant production losses among auto companies. The NITC provides a critical safety valve to alleviate similar situations.

• Proposal 6 is sloppily worded, defining an international bridge as “any” bridge put into use after Jan. 1 of this year. Imagine the financial and public policy consequences of asking Marquette voters to approve a bridge project in Monroe.

Don’t let Proposal 6 stand in the way of a more prosperous Michigan.

Brian Calley is lieutenant governor of Michigan.