By Bill Shea
Michigan predicts it will cost $350 million — entirely provided by Canada — to identify and buy the properties in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood needed to make way for a new bridge to Ontario.
The state is assembling a list of property owners in the 170 acres of the $2.1 billionNew International Trade Crossing project that organizers say are needed for the six-lane span, its plaza and a highway interchange that are scheduled to open by 2020.
The land acquisition is one of the steps underway.
Also ongoing is Canada’s search for a chief executive to lead the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority, which will oversee the bi-national construction of the span and its operation. The position, advertised to pay up to $247,700 annually, reports to the authority’s board of directors.
Next year, the authority will seek qualifications from companies interested in building and operating the bridge under a long-term concession agreement, making the project a public-private partnership.
In 2015, that authority will seek bids on the concession package.
The timeline and cost estimate, generated in 2010, have remained unchanged, organizers said.
“We still expect the entire project will take about seven years, starting from when we received the presidential permit back in April. During the next two years, we expect to complete the preliminary design, acquire property and relocate utilities,” said Mark Butler, Transport Canada‘s senior communications adviser for the Gateway Project.
A permit related to shipping traffic clearance for the bridge is needed from the U.S. Coast Guard. That permit has been submitted, Ken Silfven, Gov. Rick Snyder’s deputy press secretary, wrote in an email.
Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt met with Snyder on Nov. 12 in Lansing to discuss the progress and next steps for the project, which is being funded entirely by Canada. Its parliament must still appropriate money for the bridge effort.
Under a deal reached in June 2012 among the Michigan, Ontario and Canadian governments, the crossing authority is in charge of the design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance of the bridge, which it is expected to bid out under public-private partnership deal to a private company for a 40- or 50-year concession.
The crossing authority will fall under a joint authority, and half the bridge will be owned by Michigan and half by Canada. Appointments to the joint authority are still coming.
The I-75 highway interchange was estimated by backers in 2010 to cost $385.9 million, and the U.S. plaza will cost $413.6 million. The nearly $1 billion bridge itself would be financed by Canada through the private-sector concessionaire and the remainder of the $2.1 billion price tag is on the Canadian side of the project.
Canada has pledged to cover any construction and operational deficits. It also will cover all capital costs on the Michigan side of the project, including $264 million that project organizers want the U.S. government to pay for.
If Ottawa and Washington can’t reach a deal on that cost, Canada has said it will pay it.
In the meantime, for any Delray property owners who choose not to sell, the state has said it plans to use eminent domain to acquire the parcels needed.
“The estimate is $350 million, although condemnation proceedings are somewhat unpredictable, as you can imagine,” Silfven said.
The bridge footprint at one point included 43 businesses, 257 homes and five churches. It’s believed the number of properties has been reduced. A large percentage of the land already is publicly owned from tax foreclosures, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley told Crain’s in 2011.
The plaza site is bounded by Jefferson Avenue, Post and Campbell streets, and the NS/CSX rail line.
The leading opponent of the project is Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the commercial trucking industrialist who has said the new span will bankrupt his bridge by taking lucrative commercial truck traffic.
He owns the 42-acre former Yellow Freight truck terminal at 7701 W. Jefferson, which is partially in the bridge site. Moroun bought the property in 2010 and moved some of his trucking operations there.
He also has ongoing lawsuits against NITC.
Originally posted in Crain’s Detroit