By Tom Greenwood
Detroit — The U.S. Federal Highway Administration will allow Canadian steel to be used in the construction of the New International Trade Crossing.
The administration granted a waiver that went into effect Thursday, allowing the span to be built without the restrictions of the federal Buy American policy, which requires only U.S. steel to be used. Eventually, selected contractors will be able to use steel produced in both countries.
Backers of the New International Trade Crossing said they were pleased by the decision — one that Gov. Rick Snyder petitioned for in August so that Canadian iron and steel could be used on Canada’s portion of the new span.
According to Snyder’s office, the use of Canadian steel is only fair since Canada is mostly paying for the construction of the new $2.1 billion bridge, lending Michigan $550 million for its portion, which would be repaid through bridge tolls. The project connects southwest Detroit’s Delray neighborhood to Windsor and has faced stiff opposition from the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.
“We made the request because it was an issue of fairness for our Canadian partners,” Snyder spokesman Ken Silfven said. “With Canada being such a generous partner in terms of its contributions to the project, it was only fair Canadian iron and steel be included in the mix.
“This is welcome news, and it is one more step on the path to creating thousands of short- and long-term jobs for Michigan families.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, another factor in the waiver decision was Canada’s guarantee it would assume financial risk of the project, eliminating the chance that Michigan taxpayers would be on the hook for the bridge.
Last month, Snyder said Michigan should clear the final permit hurdles to building a bridge to Canada within six months.
Mark Butler, a spokesman for Transport Canada, applauded the waiver decision, calling it vital for the construction of the international span.
“The Buy America waiver is an important step for the construction of this much-needed project,” Butler said. “The waiver makes sense and it is in the public interest to allow the use of both Canadian and American steel and iron in the construction of the project.
“We look forward to moving forward with the State of Michigan with the development of the new crossing, which is so important to the economies of both Canada and the United States.
Butler also said the agreement between Canada and the U.S. specifically states all iron and steel used in the project must be produced by either Canada or the United States.
“The waiver also puts to rest the unfounded speculation that the steel to be used in this bi-national project would be sourced from outside of North America,” said Butler of concerns that steel from China would be used to build the bridge.