Key bridge proponent quits post

Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star

A U.S. cabinet official who is a key proponent of a new Windsor-Detroit bridge has resigned.

Ray LaHood is stepping down after four years as transportation secretary in the Obama administration.

LaHood, 67, visited Detroit more than a dozen times during his tenure – more than any other U.S. city. He was instrumental in awarding federal funds for light rail on Woodward Avenue and helping to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to create a Detroit to Chicago high-speed rail connection.

He was also committed to the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC).

“I think everything is possible in Michigan when it comes to transportation,” LaHood told the Oakland Press last week. “I think of the leadership of the governor (Rick Snyder) with Canada on the bridge crossing; what that will mean in terms of jobs, what that will mean in terms of the kind of relationship we have with Canada in terms of exports and imports.

“They need to get this project under way, get it done, and continue this kind of continuity of leadership that exists.”

The bridge project requires a presidential permit before it can proceed.

There have already been several candidates announced as a possible successor to LaHood, including former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm.

A Canadian government official expressed gratitude to LaHood for his work on the bridge file.

“We wish Secretary LaHood well in his future endeavours and would like to thank him for his continued support of the Detroit River International Crossing project,” said Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada.

“The Government of Canada continues to work with the Obama Administration to obtain the necessary approvals to proceed with construction of the project.”

Butler said the U.S. Department of State is in the midst of reviewing public comments and expects a decision on the presidential permit soon.

Snyder’s office expressed gratitude to LaHood.

“Secretary LaHood has been a good partner on several issues of importance to Michigan, including the (the DRIC bridge),” said Ken Silfven, spokesman for Snyder. “However, we’re confident that the (DRIC) stands on its own merits and don’t expect his departure to impact this critical project.”