MOVING FORWARD 2013: New international bridge brings many benefits

Press & Guide

By Raymond Basham
Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: This story is part of Heritage Media’s Moving Forward series. The series will take a look at some of the major issues facing our contiguous communities. This report focuses on transportation.

The construction of a new international bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor is closer to reality after a long and involved political process.

Referred to as the New International Trade Crossing, the bridge project will serve to meet transportation needs of our entire region. This project will add extra lanes of traffic, easier access to main transportation arteries and greater capacity for security in customs and border functions. If all goes well, construction could begin as early as next year.

This issue first came to my attention during my time in the Michigan Legislature working as a state representative, and then a state senator. While serving as Senate minority vice chair of the Transportation Committee, I had the opportunity to study this project in great detail.

Now as a Wayne County commissioner, I serve on the board of directors for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and as a member of the Wayne County Committee on Public Services, which has oversight on the county’s transportation system. Economic development and transportation remain among my top priorities. I am a supporter of the new bridge project for several reasons, most of them involving the positive impact it will have on our economy through better commerce and new, good-paying jobs.

Supply vehicles that cross the United States into Canada can come all the way from Texas without hitting one red light until they get to our area. Traffic backups on our side getting to the privately owned existing bridge, coupled with a bottleneck on the Canadian side, cost American companies millions of dollars in losses each year.

Currently, we have only four lanes of traffic to carry vehicles from Detroit to Windsor and back again. Once they reach the Canadian side they are then confronted with the traffic and 16 stoplights it takes to reach the Highway 401 . We need to make freight movement more efficient if we are going to expand our region’s standing in the market.

Understanding our border problems and making it work as securely and efficiently as possible is exactly what prompted Michigan leaders in government and business to seek options. A new bridge providing a freeway-to bridge-to freeway system will serve to make commerce much more efficient.

In addition, this project means jobs. An estimated 10,000 direct jobs and 25,000 indirect jobs should result from this development. The bridge project will be initially funded with investment from the Canadian government and repaid with toll fees once it begins operation.

The NITC is supported by the American and Canadian governments, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and (both Democratic and Republican) former Govs. Jennifer Granholm, John Engler, James Blanchard and William Milliken.

Labor unions and their business counterparts alike understand the need for a new bridge including the United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO, the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber.

The location in southwest Detroit just south of Fort Wayne, in what is known as Delray, has been discussed at hundreds of public hearings and meetings. This particular location meets with general public approval.

International trade opportunities provide economic drivers for growth and Michigan is perfectly situated to take advantage of our geographic location. Having only one bridge that is more than 80 years old is a detriment to southeastern Michigan. If we fail to act, the potential for economic growth could instead wind up in other regions like Buffalo, N.Y.

As it is, Buffalo provides 14 lanes of traffic for those crossing their border from the United States to Canada, compared to our four. They also are interested in building a new crossing. We need to get a head start on the competition by continuing our path toward Michigan’s economic resurgence and completing the new bridge as soon as possible.

Our region already boasts significant resources and opportunities for transportation. We have unique access to foreign markets through Wayne County Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which serves as a major global hub. Our road system, water ports and railways all contribute to our transportation infrastructure. The new bridge project will allow us to increase our capabilities and finally realize our full economic potential. At the same time, it will generate new jobs for our residents.

In my opinion, it’s a win-win for all.

Raymond Basham is a Wayne County commissioner in the 14th District, representing Brownstown Township, Flat Rock, Rockwood, Taylor and Woodhaven.