David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, wants to fast-track the DRIC project and get the new bridge open before the 2018 target date.
“I believe we need to expedite this and reduce the opportunity for lawsuits to slow it down,” he said two weeks ago. “We think it’s a very important infrastructure project that has been delayed for too long.”
We couldn’t agree with him more. It’s been almost a decade since politicians on both sides of the border first floated the idea.
But it’s not as simple as some might think. In Canada, the federal and provincial governments have already paved the way to begin construction. The $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway is expected to open in 2014, but it might not have anywhere to go. Forget about getting the shovel in the ground on the Michigan side. There isn’t even a plan in place yet.
As for the risks of continued litigation, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder summed that up best. “I’m confident we’ll continue to get sued,” he told a Toronto audience recently. “I expect the Morouns to continue to litigate – file lawsuits on most any rationale they can find,” he told the Globe and Mail.
The governor was, obviously, referring to Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and his ongoing battle to protect his lucrative monopoly at the border.
Indeed, the bridge company is acting like there’s no such thing as DRIC, and last month started applying for a slew of permits to move forward with its twin-span plan. While it will never receive Canadian approval, Moroun could accomplish his real goal, which is to cause even more delays.
That’s probably why Snyder threw out the 2018 date, saying that was the “earliest” he could get the job done. Or is it?
Let’s assume the Michigan legislature, filled with Moroun cronies who chose to support their benefactor rather than their constituents, is taken out of the equation. U.S. Coast Guard approval and a presidential permit are all that’s required to accelerate construction of the new bridge.
Most of the other pieces of the puzzle are in place. Canada has pledged to pay Michigan’s $550 million share of the costs. Washington has approved that funding plan. Ottawa will likely pass the new Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act, which will allow construction to start sooner.
With one stroke of the pen, President Barack Obama can kick this into high gear, regardless of any spiteful tactics employed by the bridge company.
Snyder should be knocking on the president’s door. He should also be making it clear to Michigan residents that they have an important economic stake in this.
It’s not just that $300 million in trade passes through the Windsor-Detroit corridor every day, or that five per cent of Michigan jobs are dependent on Canada. It’s that this new build will provide thousands of well-paying jobs in a state that’s been struggling for a long time. Nobody in Lansing has done a good job at conveying that message.
Few would argue with Bradley’s desire to move “North America’s most important gateway” forward. The problem is getting Michigan up to speed.