Grand Rapids area chamber president: Proposal 6 is bad economics, will result in disastrous public policy

By Rick Baker and Sandy Baruah |

There are 31 million reasons and counting to vote “no” on Proposal 6. That’s the amount of money – $31 million – reportedly committed by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun on Proposal 6. Why would one person spend such an unprecedented amount of money trying to thwart Michigan’s economic recovery? The quick answer is he wants to buy your vote so he can protect his lucrative monopoly.
The Detroit Regional Chamber and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce represent hundreds of organizations and thousands of businesses from East and West Michigan that are united on this issue. Proposal 6 is bad economics for Michigan and will result in disastrous public policy. Our members are committed to moving the economic needle and moving Michigan forward, but Proposal 6 would be a giant step backward.

Legal experts have analyzed the language in Proposal 6 and have determined it could require a statewide and local vote for any bridge, tunnel or overpass built in Michigan after January 1, 2012. This flawed language could require voters to approve by statewide and local elections any new bridge or tunnel built in Michigan. Our state could essentially be forced to wait until the next election before being able to build a bridge anywhere in the state.

Major projects that could be impacted by Proposal 6, like the New International Trade Crossing and Detroit rail tunnel, are infrastructure projects Michigan needs to compete in the global economy.

Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner with more than $70.2 billion in trade in 2011. About 237,000 Michigan jobs depend on Canada-Michigan trade. In fact, one in seven jobs in West Michigan and one in eight jobs in Southeast Michigan rely on that trade. Keeping this trade relationship robust is crucial to our economic success.

Michigan’s current infrastructure is not equipped to accommodate the growing demands of international trade. Over 8,000 trucks cross the Detroit-Windsor border daily, 99 percent of which cross the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which has no direct freeway-to-freeway access.

Traffic is forced to travel seven miles on a commercial street with 17 stoplights to reach Highway 401. In the global market, minutes of delay costs businesses millions of dollars, particularly for the auto industry which depends on just-in time delivery. These frequent delays caused by traffic jams on the Canadian side of the current bridge significantly hinder economic expansion and our businesses’ ability to compete.

Windsor-Detroit truck traffic is projected to increase by 128 percent over the next 30 years. This will only exacerbate the congestion problem and as delay time at the border grows, so will the likelihood that national and global businesses will look for a more efficient route to the market. The international border is one of Michigan’s greatest economic assets. Businesses in every corner of the state benefit from this flow of commerce and investment. Proposal 6 will erode this advantage and sends the wrong message to investors across the globe.

The dark days of 2008 and 2009 proved one thing – the global economy is ruthless. Fierce competition drove Michigan’s auto industry to the brink of collapse. The global economy will not stop evolving and international trade will flow along the path of least resistance.
States – like Michigan – that fail to invest in the future and stay ahead of competitors will fall behind. A No vote on Proposal 6 will help ensure that doesn’t happen. Support Michigan’s future, protect our constitution and vote no on Proposal 6.

Dave Murray is the Grand Rapids community engagement specialist. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ReporterDMurray or on Facebook.

Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and he writes this with Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
The chambers oppose Proposal 6, which would require the approval of a majority of voters at a statewide election and in each municipality where “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” are to be located before the State of Michigan may expend state funds or resources for acquiring land, designing, soliciting bids for, constructing, financing, or promoting new international bridges or tunnels.

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