Snyder: Government bridge to Canada can move forward with rejection of Proposal 6

By John Gallagher and Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press Staff Writers

An upbeat Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday that there might be “shovels in the ground” for the New International Trade Crossing bridge project within two to six months.

But Ken Silfven, Snyder’s deputy press secretary, later clarified, saying the governor was using “two to six months” as a metaphor for receiving the U.S. Presidential Permit needed for the project to proceed. Actual construction might begin in two to three years.

The Canadian-led project must still create a public-private body to put out bids to hire contractors. That team of contractors must then design and engineer the bridge. Permits need to be obtained at several levels, land purchased in southwest Detroit, and other further legal issues resolved.

The actual NITC schedule, developed in coordination between Michigan and Canadian officials, envisions a seven-year process from the time the U.S. Presidential Permit is approved, something that officials hope to get within a few months.

“The project teams recognize that this is an aggressive, but achievable schedule,” according to NITC documents.

The first couple of years following the Presidential Permit would involve creating the Crossing Authority, a public-private body that would oversee the project. In addition, officials must finalize the agreement between Michigan and Canada, purchase land in Southwest Detroit, and so forth. The only actual construction that might start in a year or so would involve relocation of utilities from the NITC area in Detroit’s Delray district.

Actual construction activities on the bridge itself could begin in year two or three, depending on progress.

Then there is the issue of further roadblocks that might be created by businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who with his family owns the Ambassador Bridge and who has fought tirelessly to block or delay the NITC project.

Moroun spent more than $33 million to push for approval of Proposal 6, the failed constitutional amendment that could have stymied plans for NITC had it not gone down to overwhelming defeat in Tuesday’s election.

See full results of all six Michigan ballot proposals.

Mickey Blashfield, Moroun’s director of government affairs and head of the Moroun-backed committee the People Should Decide that pushed for Prop 6, issued a statement after the proposal’s defeat that hinted of more trouble to come.

“We are happy with the investment made in this campaign on behalf of taxpayers and the 5,000 families employed by Ambassador Bridge family of companies,” Blashfield said. “Like any family business, we would do it again – and will in different ways – to defend economic freedom and limited government.”

He added, “If the governmental proposal doesn’t collapse from the weight of legal and congressional scrutiny, the NITC will never be built over unstable salt mine foundations, where land speculators are lining up to get rich on the government’s tab.”

The salt mines Blashfield referred to are deep underground in southwest Detroit and have been dismissed by NITC backers as no cause for concern for the project. Among the landowners whose property lies within the general NITC district in southwest Detroit is Moroun himself, who owns a truck terminal that lies partly in the path of the NITC approaches.