The Michigan House narrowly passed a bill to approve a new bridge over the Detroit River. As Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry says, it’s now up to the Senate.
What do L. Brooks Patterson, Jennifer Granholm, the Ford Motor Company and the government of Canada have in common?
They are all in favor of the proposed new Detroit River International Crossing Bridge, usually known as DRIC for short. It would be built about two miles south of the old Ambassador Bridge. Private investment would be welcome, but DRIC would be jointly owned and run by the United States and Canada.
The pro-business, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is solidly in favor of the bridge. So is State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a liberal who represents the area that includes both bridge sites.
The Michigan Legislature now needs to decide whether to proceed with the project, and it should be a no-brainer. The government of Canada is so convinced a new bridge is necessary, that it has offered to cover Michigan’s share of the costs, money to be paid back later out of tolls.
Brooks Patterson estimates a new bridge could mean six thousand jobs for his Oakland County. The governor says as many as ten thousand could be created overall.
These would be good paying jobs that might last only a few years, but which are desperately needed in Michigan now.
All that has to happen at this stage is to approve a bill to allow the state to enter into public-private partnership agreements on transportation projects like the bridge.
But the House only narrowly passed the bill Wednesday without a single Republican vote, and now the bridge’s fate is up to the GOP-controlled Senate. And prospects are doubtful, because one man is firmly opposed — Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the eighty-three-year-old billionaire owner of the eighty-one year old Ambassador Bridge.
Right now, he has a monopoly. Detroit-Windsor is the nation’s biggest and most important trade crossing. Billions of dollars in goods rumble across the Ambassador Bridge every year.
But it is wearing out. There is no backup if something happens to the Ambassador, and while the volume of trucks declined significantly during the recession, it is now moving back up again.
Even Moroun knows a new bridge is going to be needed, but he doesn’t want to lose his monopoly. He wants to build a second bridge of his own next to the current one, instead. Trouble is, few others think that is a good idea, for reasons involving security, pollution, and the freeway system in Canada.
Even the thoroughly free-enterprise Detroit News says it was time to recognize reality and start building the DRIC bridge.
The Canadian government has indicated it will never allow the Ambassador Bridge to be twinned, But Moroun isn’t giving up the fight. He figures Job One is stopping the competition.
Accordingly, he continues to oppose DRIC. He donates lavishly to political campaigns, and whether for this or other reasons, he has strong supporters in the legislature still trying to stop the new bridge.
This seems suspicious, given that the Republican-controlled Ohio senate just voted unanimously in favor of the DRIC bridge. Michigan needs the jobs it would create, and needs to avoid the very real threat of having trade diverted to the crossing at Buffalo, New York. So, now our future is up to the Senate. In this case, if we don’t build DRIC, a whole lot of jobs won’t come.
And our lawmakers need to do the right thing.