WILLIAMSTON, MI – In a final push the day before Michigan voters decide on a host of ballot issues, Gov. Rick Snyder devoted his time to defeating Proposal 6, saying a second Detroit-Windsor bridge will secure jobs for years to come.
The Ambassador Bridge is 83 years old and has 40 percent more traffic than four international bridges combined in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, he told employees at Bekum America Corp. in Williamston east of Lansing.
“Shouldn’t we have at least a second crossing? To say we got that covered so we have opportunity, it allows us to grow (trade) and be more successful?” the Republican governor said inside Bekum, which makes machines that manufacture plastic containers and ships them all over, including to Canada. “At the same time, I want to see the Ambassador Bridge keep going so we have two successful crossings.”
The Let the People Decide amendment 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.
The measure backed by Ambassador Bridge owners Manuel “Matty” Moroun and his family aims to stall or stop the new competing Detroit-Windsor bridge, which was planned by Snyder and Canada through an “interlocal agreement” that bypasses a resistant state Legislature. The Morouns have spent more than $33 million promoting Proposal 6 and trashing the New International Trade Crossing – a record for one side of a Michigan ballot initiative.
While taking questions from the crowd of Bekum workers, Snyder was asked about all the other crossings into Canada. The Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron allows for commercial truck traffic, and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel generally does not. There also is a rail tunnel under the Detroit River that could be replaced.
The new bridge would accommodate trucks.
Snyder said while the Blue Water is not at 100 percent capacity, it is “pretty full” and if something happened to one crossing, “we couldn’t get all the traffic across (the other) bridge … to carry the weight of two crossings on that one.”
Mickey Blashfield, who directs The People Should Decide ballot committee and government relations for the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador, disputed the notion that one bridge could not pick up enough of the slack if another bridge were out of service.
In late 2010, he said, a snow storm shut down the Canadian highway leading to the Blue Water and the Ambassador “accommodated the traffic without much incident.”
The number of cars and trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge has dropped by almost 40 percent since 1999, he said.
Last week, Snyder embarked on a four-day tour of the state to oppose five proposed constitutional amendments and urge a “yes” vote on a referendum of the emergency manager law he signed. But today, he focused on the bridge measure.
He again said Canada will pay the entire cost and be paid back through tolls collected for 40 to 50 years. Michigan taxpayers will owe nothing, Snyder said.
Blashfield countered that the governor is ignoring $263 million in federal dollars needed to build a U.S. Customs plaza for the new bridge and $41 million in state money already spent studying the bridge, and argued that there is no deal on who will pay for cost overruns.
“Only a yes vote on Proposal 6 allows there to be answers before the massive debt is incurred,” he said.
Michigan’s four other living governors, the Detroit Three auto companies, many labor unions, chambers of commerce, newspaper editorial boards, major corporations and the Obama administration oppose Proposal 6.
Besides the Morouns, others supporting Proposal 6 include Americans for Prosperity, the Willow Run Tea Party and the Teamsters union that represents Ambassador Bridge employees.