By Paul Egan and Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press Staff Writers
LANSING – The presidential permit for the New International Trade Crossing has been approved, and the announcement will be made today in Detroit by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Free Press has learned.
Jeff Holyfield, a spokesman for Snyder, said the governor will be in Detroit today for an economic development announcement, but he would not confirm the news about the presidential permit.
“We’re not saying anything at this time about that one,” Holyfield said.
But sources close to the development confirmed to the Free Press that the permit for the bridge project would be announced today. One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the U.S. State Department had signed off on the permit Thursday and notified ambassadors for both countries and Snyder.
The Windsor Star, citing anonymous sources, first reported the development Thursday evening.
Officials have been invited to a news conference in Detroit this afternoon, but the announcement was being kept close to the vest, even among the proponents for the new crossing.
One supporter who has worked closely with the project received an invitation to an event with the governor at 2 p.m. today — “a press conference occurring Friday afternoon regarding Michigan’s economic future” — with no mention of the long-awaited bridge.
The event is at James Group International, a company that does packaging, freight forwarding and warehousing and has been a supporter of the new bridge. In 2011, John James, chairman and CEO of the company, called the building of a new bridge “a tremendous growth opportunity.”
This permit for the bridge is one of the last steps required before construction can begin on the new bridge. The State Department signs off on all international crossings, but this one took longer than some expected; it was applied for last summer.
Last week, a State Department official told the Free Press that the department had received about 15,000 comments on the proposed crossing.
Snyder signed an agreement with Canada to build a public bridge across the Detroit River after the Legislature wouldn’t approve the plan. The Canadian government has offered to pay Michigan’s $550-million share of the $2.1-billion overall cost of the NITC bridge.
The development is opposed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., to block the project.
Hamish Hume, the lawyer for the Moroun family’s interests in Washington, said Monday that if a presidential permit was issued while they were seeking an injunction to block it, Moroun’s bridge company would — as soon as possible — file an expedited motion with the U.S. district judge hearing the case in Washington.
The Detroit International Bridge Co. is arguing that the process by which the permit for a new border crossing can be issued is unconstitutional because when Congress gave the State Department that power in 1972, it did not outline a specific principle to apply when deciding such cases.
Also, the bridge company argues that because it was created by legislation in both Congress and the Canadian Parliament in 1921 — predating the 1972 bridge act — it would take legislation in both to allow a rival bridge to be built.