Property buying for DRIC bridge remains on hold in U.S.

The Windsor Star

Dave Battagello

Property acquisition in Detroit to make room for the planned $1-billion Windsor-Detroit bridge has been slow to get off the ground, despite the federal government’s $631-million budget commitment in February.

The bulk of those funds was to be filtered into Michigan to help start the process of buying up properties to make room for the plaza and feeder roads in Delray — the industrial community where the Detroit River International Crossing will be located on the U.S. side.

The Michigan Department of Transportation was to be the recipient of those funds and help oversee the property buying effort which is anticipated to have an overall price tag of about $300 million.

Government leaders had said property buying would start in early spring, but seems to be stalled because of political wrangling.

The state government’s Republicans threw a wrench into the plan a few weeks ago when they passed a motion attached to the state transportation’s budget forbidding MDOT from spending anything this year on property buying for the DRIC bridge.

The state budget is not expected to be finalized until later this month, so there is hope the motion will be withdrawn But property buying is on hold pending a resolution.

Property required on the Canadian side for the bridge project in Brighton Beach — largely vacant land — is already in the hands of the Canadian government.

“The Government of Canada is continuing to work with the State of Michigan regarding the acquisition of property needed for the U.S. components of the project,” said Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada.

“We are in the process of completing the necessary land title searches. Next steps will include completion of property appraisals, property surveys and environmental assessments.”

Butler could not say exactly when property purchases might start.

There is some discussion that Gov. Rick Snyder may use the Detroit Port Authority as a conduit to purchase property in Detroit.

The contract for the port’s executive director John Jamian was not renewed last week by the board, causing some speculation that the Snyder administration may have a role in finding a successor.

Jamian, who had run the port for the past three years until his contract expired, would only say “I accomplished everything I needed to accomplish in three years” in a story that appeared in Crain’s magazine about his abrupt departure.

Under Michigan legislation, the Detroit port authority may acquire property rights on behalf of a partnership or corporation “considered by the authority to be necessary for the construction or efficient operation of a project.”

A spokesman for Snyder’s office did not respond Monday to The Star.

Windsor’s port authority under Canadian legislation has similar rights, but there has been no need to go down that road given how the federal government already has the lands it needs on the Windsor side for the bridge project, said David Cree, CEO for the Windsor Port Authority.

The remainder of the $631 million budgeted over two years by Ottawa for the DRIC bridge project is expected to go toward pre-construction planning and utility relocations.

Construction of the DRIC bridge is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star