U.S. groups pressure Obama to approve DRIC bridge

The Windsor Star

By Dave Battagello

A group of 17 organizations representing construction workers, contractors, suppliers and manufacturers in the U.S. is urging President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to “swiftly approve” a permit for a new Windsor-Detroit bridge.

With more than 8,000 trucks crossing daily, the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge is inadequate to handle the growing demands of $120 billion in trade that crossed in 2011, the group says.

The $1 billion Detroit River International Crossing is awaiting approval of a presidential permit application in Washington that is being handled by the Department of State, which Clinton oversees.

“The Detroit-Windsor (DRIC bridge) is a win-win for all involved,” the groups says in a letter to Obama and Clinton. The letter refers to the creation of 10,000 construction jobs and many more once the new crossing is built and goods are brought to market more efficiently.

The organizations signing the Dec. 13 letter include the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Iron and Steel Institute, Associated General Contractors of America and the American HIghway Users Alliance.

Construction of the DRIC bridge moved one step closer to reality last week after the U.S. Federal Highway Administration issued a waiver of its Buy America policy that will allow Canadian steel to be used on the project.

Canada has agreed to pay up to $550 million for Michigan’s share of the bridge and feeder roads under the DRIC effort. Canada also agreed to assume all the financial risk of the DRIC project.

“Without the (DRIC bridge), U.S. companies will continue to incur massive costs transporting goods to and from Canada (our largest trading partner), detrimentally impacting job creation, economic growth and the environment as trucks sit idling in traffic on the way to their final destination,” the letter said.

On the Canadian side, the bridge nears final approval with the DRIC project’s inclusion in the federal government’s omnibus bill currently being debated in Ottawa.