Calley says any bridge in jeopardy under Proposal 6

by Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Lt. Gov. Brian Calley warned Tuesday passage of the Proposal 6 constitutional amendment requiring statewide and local votes for new international bridges and tunnels could put “every single bridge project (in Michigan) at risk.”

It’s an argument opponents of Proposal 6 have made before, pointing to the definition of new international bridges or tunnels as written in a constitutional amendment financed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun to block or delay construction of a new Detroit River crossing from southwest Detroit to Windsor.

The language in question reads: “New international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles shall mean any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of January 1, 2012.”

The key word, Calley said, is “any.”

That word could be legally applied to simple inland river bridges or the Gateway Project’s set of ramps and bridges that opened for traffic last month, connecting the Ambassador Bridge’s commercial truck traffic directly to Interstate 75 and I-96, Calley said.

“Their proposal might even prevent access to their own bridge,” Calley said.

Calley appeared Tuesday at a press conference sponsored by the opponents of Proposal 6, Taxpayers Against Monopolies, at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce with Michigan Townships Association director of government relations Judy Allen, chamber president Tim Daman and Sam Houston, regional representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324.

If approved, Proposal 6 would require individual ballot campaigns to gather signatures and place before voters a ballot question asking whether state government can build bridges and tunnels. Unlike other ballot questions, the Legislature would be prohibited from placing the question before voters.

Mickey Blashfield, director of Moroun’s The People Should Decide campaign, said Calley’s interpretation of the language ignores multiple references to “international” bridges and tunnels in the amendment.

If Proposal 6 passes, Calley said, it could delay construction of the planned $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing for which the Canadian government has offered to pay. Canada, assuming all long-term debt on the project, has offered to front Michigan’s $550 million share of the project, to be paid back in toll revenue.

“It will delay it,” Calley told reporters. “It will not stop it.”

Gov. Rick Snyder’s No. 2 also issued a pre-election prediction: “It’s not going to pass.”

Moroun has poured more than $31 million into passage of Proposal 6 through an intense advertising campaign on television, radio, mail and telephone calls.

With about $1.4 million to spend, Taxpayers Against Monopolies launched its first TV ad Tuesday making a caricature out of recluse 85-year-old billionaire. The group has been aided by $500,000 from General Motors, $100,000 from Chrysler, $100,000 from Meijer and a $250,000 donation from DTE Energy on Monday.

“We just think it’s a bad plan,” said Alejandro Bodipo-Memba, spokesman for DTE Energy, which supports building a bridge to promote economic development.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Snyder kicked off a four-day bus tour of the state campaigning against Proposal 2-6 and advocating for a “yes” vote on Proposal 1 to bring back his suspended emergency manager law, Public Act 4 of 2011.

With Snyder and Calley focused closely on defeating Moroun’s Proposal 6, the president of Moroun’s bridge company is on the defense this week about claims by the governor, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and others that the Ambassador Bridge has a monopoly on truck traffic because of space restrictions at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

“I don’t think the Ambassador Bridge has a monopoly on anything but running the most efficient border crossing in North America,” Detroit International Bridge Co. President Dan Stamper told reporters Monday.

He later added: “I don’t think a competing bridge could put us out of business.”