Great Lakes members of Congress push Bridge Project

Great Lakes delegates try to get Trump’s attention with priorities letter

Garret Ellison | gellison@mlive.com By Garret Ellison | gellison@mlive.com

on February 13, 2017 at 5:55 PM, updated February 14, 2017 at 11:46 AM

Members of Congress representing Great Lakes states hope to grab President Donald Trump attention with a letter to the White House that outlines key regional priorities that delegates hope to work on with the new administration.

The letter, dated Feb. 8, was signed by 20 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, from the eight Great Lakes states in the U.S. House of Representatives.

It extends congratulations on Trump’s ascendance to the White House and outlines economic interests of the Great Lakes region like continued emphasis on pollution cleanup and new investments in maritime infrastructure.

The letter specifies the importance of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the threat posed to the sport fishing industry by invasive Asian carp, and highlights the economic importance of upgrading the Soo Locks.

A leaked list of Trump infrastructure project priorities in the Great Lakes region include the Soo Locks, Detroit’s M-1 Rail streetcar transit system, and the new international bridge between Detroit and Canada.

“We expect the president will take our concerns seriously and have no reason to doubt that he won’t,” said Brian Patrick, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force.

Patrick said the letter was sent directly to the White House, where he expects administration staff will help elevate the concerns to Trump, who, in the past few days, has been dealing with the test-firing of a ballistic missile by North Korea, the fallout from his attempt to ban refugees from seven Muslim countries and meeting with the prime ministers of Canada and Japan.

Trump met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, Feb. 13 in Washington and the two issued a joint statement, released by Trudeau’s office, affirming a “longstanding commitment to close cooperation in addressing both the challenges facing our two countries and problems around the world.”

The statement includes mention of the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, of which the two leaders look forward to the “expeditious completion” of, as well as a pledge to move forward on “energy infrastructure projects that will create jobs while respecting the environment.”

The energy infrastructure statements follow the U.S. State Department’s Feb. 10 finding of no significant negative environmental impact from Enbridge Inc.’s permit application to boost capacity on its Alberta Clipper cross-border pipeline, which could move up to 800,000 barrels-per-day of tar sands oil from Alberta across North Dakota and Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin if approved.

The statement specifically mentions the cross-border Keystone XL oil pipeline, a controversial project blocked by Barack Obama, which Trump has revived.

“We also look forward to building on our many areas of environmental cooperation, particularly along our border and at the Great Lakes, and we will continue to work together to enhance the quality of our air and water,” read the statement.

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/02/great_lakes_delegates_try_to_g.html

TRUMP/TRUDEAU: BRIDGE A VITAL LINK

Trump, Trudeau commit to pre-clearance, Gordie Howe Bridge

Posted: Feb 14, 2017 12:33 PM | Last Updated: Feb 14, 2017 12:33 PM

TORONTO, ON – The inaugural meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resulted in a joint statement by the two leaders. And while the statement didn’t mention NAFTA, it did mention the importance of deepening the relationship between Canada and the U.S.

The statement touches on some issues pertaining to the trucking industry, namely the quick completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Detroit, which is cited as a vital economic link between the two countries.

In addition, the statement mentions the commitment to implement pre-clearance operations for cargo.

“The United States and Canada also recognize the importance of cooperation to promote economic growth, provide benefits to our consumers and businesses, and advance free and fair trade. We will continue our dialogue on regulatory issues and pursue shared regulatory outcomes that are business-friendly, reduce costs, and increase economic efficiency without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards. We will work together regarding labour mobility in various economic sectors,” an excerpt from the statement reads.

In a press conference after the two leaders met, Trump talked about the good relationship between Canada and the U.S., and when pressed about his past statements regarding NAFTA, he mentioned that “tweaks” could be made to better the situation on both sides of the border. The president also mentioned the U.S. trade relationship with Mexico is more problematic than its trade relationship than Canada.

“Together, we address security at our shared border and throughout our two countries, while expediting legitimate and vital cross-border trade and travel. We demonstrate daily that security and efficiency go hand-in-hand, and we are building a 21st century border through initiatives such as pre-clearance of people and integrated cross-border law enforcement operations,” the statement from Trump and Trudeau read.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), many Canadian business groups are pleased with the results of yesterday’s inaugural meeting between the two leaders.

“This creates a good foundation for moving forward on initiatives to jointly grow our economies in the spirit of cooperation that has defined the Canada-US relationship for over 200 years,” says David Bradley, Chief Executive Officer, adding that his 4,500 member companies will be greatly relieved by the results of yesterday’s meeting between the two leaders.

“The opportunities to deploy state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology – starting with key projects like the Gordie Howe International Bridge – to ensure that both security and trade facilitation is improved, are immense. We are encouraged by what we heard today,” says Bradley.

Ahead of the meeting between the two leaders the CTA, joined by of roughly 40 Canada-U.S. business associations, companies and policy experts, released a joint statement outlining the general principles that should be followed when managing the world’s largest security, trade, and cultural relationship.

http://www.todaystrucking.com/trump-trudeau-commit-to-pre-clearance-gordie-howe-bridge

Hurdle cleared in effort to build Gordie Howe bridge

Eric D. Lawrence
Detroit Free Press

The Michigan Department of Transportation has cleared a hurdle as it moves to acquire property for construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s companies have granted permission, after initially refusing, for MDOT to access property the Morouns control in southwest Detroit so the agency can survey and conduct other work.

MDOT had sought a court order to allow the agency access to property, which the Ambassador Bridge owner uses for a trucking terminal on West Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. The agency is acquiring property in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood for the new Canada-financed bridge between Detroit and Windsor and filed suit Wednesday in Wayne County Circuit Court, saying it needs access “immediately” to avoid delays in construction, which is projected to start in 2017.

But Michael Samhat, president of Moroun’s Crown Enterprises, explained that he had granted the permission in writing the day after MDOT’s attorney set a 24-hour deadline, but that a lawsuit was filed anyway. After reaching out to MDOT the next day, he said the suit was withdrawn.

“Our intent was not to fight or resist their entrance to the property. We understand it’s part of the process,” Samhat said. But “we need to have some details.”

Samhat referenced an aerial picture that MDOT provided of the Central Transport operation showing curving red lines through the property, presumably representing what MDOT believes it might need to acquire.

“It’s obvious to us it’s not them taking a sliver,” Samhat said, noting that if that area is eventually acquired “it would greatly impair the operation.”

As reported by the Free Press in July, MDOT needs to control up to 800 parcels in the southwest Detroit neighborhood to provide room for the approaches to the bridge and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection plaza. The report said that “legal wrangling over the price of individual parcels could go on for years after residents and businesses are relocated and even after the Gordie Howe International Bridge is scheduled to open in 2020.”

The exchange between Samhat and MDOT played out in a series of back-and-forth letters since the beginning of October. Moroun’s companies own more than 20 parcels that MDOT wants to access, but only one appeared to be at issue.

In a letter Oct. 12, Samhat suggested, in denying MDOT’s access request, that it was looking out for its business and employees.

“We are sensitive about the disruption and employee concern that your inspection will cause with this parcel. This site is utilized by Central Transport and it is one of the larger employers in this Detroit neighborhood,” according to the letter, which also notes that it’s “premature to start the process toward condemnation when important decisions concerning the ability of the project to go forward are currently before the federal court in Washington, D.C.”

That letter followed a decision by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who dismissed “virtually all of the remaining legal counts in the Morouns’ five-year-old lawsuit against federal and state officials” in their fight over the new bridge. Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. had claimed an exclusive franchise to operate a bridge between Detroit and Canada without competition.

MDOT’s attorney, Mark Zausmer, said in his letter seeking access to the Moroun property that the agency needs to survey, take measurements and photographs, appraise the property and conduct noninvasive environmental inspection activities.

The MDOT lawsuit noted that Samhat was requesting “an assurance that their ‘business and employees will not be damaged in this condemnation process.’ ”

It might not be a surprise that MDOT turned to the courts to address its access request. Moroun has aggressively fought construction of the Gordie Howe bridge, which would be downstream of the Ambassador, at the same time he has been fighting, despite significant opposition in Canada, to build a second span for the Ambassador.

Originally posted by the Detroit Free Press

Open house scheduled for Gordie Howe bridge project

Dave Battagello, Windsor Star

Residents are being invited by the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority to attend a public open house on Tuesday, Nov. 17 to learn more about the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

The information session will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. inside the clubhouse at the Ambassador Golf Club at 1025 Sprucewood Ave.

An overall project update will be on display with WDBA officials available to answer questions. Presentations will take place at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Those interested in the project will receive information on the current “early works” project, a $59-million contract that already has Amico Infrastructure in the middle of site preparation in Windsor— building a new four-kilometre perimeter access road, utility relocation and installing drainage on the 100-acre site in Brighton Beach.

The Howe bridge is scheduled to open in 2020.

A similar project update meeting will be held in Detroit by WDBA Nov. 18 (also from 2 to 8 p.m.) at Historic Fort Wayne at 6325 W. Jefferson Ave.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

New $2.1 Billion Detroit-Windsor Bridge Promises Boon to U.S. Trade

Fiscal Times | Eric Pianin

Amid the gloom over the partisan deadlock in Washington over an infrastructure program and the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. and Canadian governments have quietly cut a deal on a new $2.1 billion bridge linking Detroit and Ontario designed to eliminate a massive bottleneck in the flow of goods between the two countries.

With more than $650 billion in goods exchanged each year between Canada and the United States, Canada represents this country’s largest trading partner, overshadowing China, Mexico and Japan. Nearly half of all goods that are transported between the two countries by truck each year – or roughly $131 billion worth – currently pass over the Ambassador Bridge or through an adjacent  tunnel.

The 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge is swamped by over 8,000 trucks daily. A combination of heightened border security and persistent traffic jams is creating a drag on potential growth in U.S. exports and imports along the Detroit-Windsor border. Some experts say construction of a new bridge would pave the way for a significant increase in trade in coming years.

“Among all the border crossings between Canada and the United States, Detroit is really the most emblematic of the infrastructure problems that need to be addressed,” Joseph Kane, a senior policy specialist on U.S. metropolitan areas, said in an interview on Monday. “There’s a huge scale of value really going across the border, and it’s not just a local issue where it’s just benefiting local workers and business establishments in Michigan itself.”

The U.S. State Department approved the bridge in 2013, but the project has been dogged for years by financial and legal problems and challenges from community residents.

The new bridge is to be constructed about two miles south of the  Ambassador Bridge, a privately owned suspension bridge that currently is the busiest international border crossing in North America in terms of trade volume. The project also will include construction of new highway interchanges in downtown Detroit and Windsor to handle more easily the crush of traffic. Officials have said they hope to open the bridge in 2020, although construction hasn’t started yet.

The deal was finally sealed after the Canadian government agreed recently to pick up the $250 million to $300 million cost of a customs plaza for the New International Trade Crossing on the U.S. side. The Department of Homeland Security says that a “public-private partnership” will use tolls to reimburse Canada for the plaza’s construction. In return, the U.S. will pay for the workers, operations and maintenance of the plaza in Detroit – with a first year cost of about $100 million.

Much of the $131 billion worth of cargo transported by truck between Detroit and Windsor annually is high-value transportation and electronic equipment that is destined for regions well beyond Detroit and Ontario.  By comparison, the next highest volume border crossing, in Buffalo, N.Y., handles about $151 billion of truck traffic a year, or one third of what is trucked across the Ambassador Bridge, according to data prepared by Brookings.

Click here to read the entire article from msn.com.

Latest deal on Detroit-Canada bridge a huge boost for metro trade

Brookings |

Over the past decade, the New International Trade Crossing (NITC)—a proposed bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario—has been in the works to improve connectivity at one of the world’s busiest border crossings and sites of commerce. Supported by an innovative, binational public-private partnership between the United States and Canada, the $2 billion-plus project will not only relieve pressure on the increasingly congested, 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which handles over 8,000 trucks daily, but also reinforce Michigan’s role as a global trading hub.

Uncertainties over funding and vocal opposition have long stalled the NITC’s progress, but the project just cleared a major hurdle toward completion when Canada agreed to pick up a $250 million tab for the bridge’s customs plaza. In addition to the thousands of local workers and industries that stand to benefit from this latest move, metropolitan areas across the United States and Canada will reap economic rewards for years to come.

Protecting the U.S.-Canadian trading relationship is of vital significance to both countries’ economies and facilitated by key infrastructure investments. With over $650 billion in goods exchanged each year, Canada represents the largest trading partner for the U.S., outranking China, Mexico, and Japan. At the same time, those goods flow to an impressive amount of places on both sides of the border, from Seattle and Houston to Vancouver and Montreal, helping explain why Canada has taken a lead role investing in the NITC.

Detroit is easily the most important of these trading depots, especially when it comes to truck movement. Last year, more than 1.6 million trucks passed through the metro area, which represented the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada and the second-busiest in North America next to Laredo (1.9 million trucks). An upcoming release in our Metro Freight series will reveal a similar result, showing how Detroit funnels approximately $131 billion, or nearly half, of all goods that move by truck between the U.S. and Canada. By comparison, the next highest border crossing, Buffalo, transports about one-third this value by truck ($51 billion), followed by several rural regions.

Source: Brookings analysis of EDR data.
Note: “Rest of” designations refer to nonmetropolitan portions of each state. For instance, the “Rest of Washington” includes all rural regions outside metropolitan areas such as Seattle and Spokane.

In turn, a variety of markets across the U.S. rely on Detroit to profit from Canadian trade. For example, only 4.7 percent of the $131 billion carried on these trucks ($6.2 billion) is produced or consumed locally in Detroit. Instead, the vast majority of this value travels to and from large markets like New York ($4.7 billion), Chicago ($4.4 billion), and Los Angeles ($2.5 billion), including anything from electronics to metals to agricultural products.

As policymakers look to target more freight investments in the future, the NITC clearly assumes national importance. The U.S. already faces an enormous backlog of infrastructure projects along the border, and it’s time for a more coordinated, proactive approach—through a national freight investment program— that can further support trade in particular regions.

Originally posted by Brookings

Editorial: Build the Detroit River bridge

Latest legal setback should end the challenges to new Detroit River crossing

Piece by piece, preparations for the new Detroit River bridge are falling into place. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared a potential major legal hurdle by refusing to hear a lawsuit brought by community activists and the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

The challenge came from Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Citizens with Challenges, Detroit Association of Black Organizations and other community groups, along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

The parties claimed the Federal Highway Administration, in approving the Delray neighborhood of southwest Detroit as the site of the new crossing, violated the social and environmental justice provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and other federal laws.

Federal District Court Judge Avern Cohn rejected the lawsuit, and his decision was upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the Supreme Court has put the matter to rest.

It is the latest in a string of legal victories for Gov. Rick Snyder and other backers of the new Detroit River International Crossing.

Last summer, the appellate court also rejected the contention that the federal government had bowed to pressure from Canada in denying a permit for Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun to build a second span adjacent to his current bridge.

And earlier this month, the United States and Canada reached agreement for the Canadians to front the money for building out the customs plaza on the Detroit side of the crossing. As with the entire $2 billion cost of the bridge, which Canada is also putting up, the $300 million for the plaza will be repaid with revenue from tolls.

By now, the inevitability of the new bridge should be evident. Continuing court battles and other blocking moves is pointless.

Moroun, as well as the community groups, should stand down and let the process of building the bridge proceed.

Instead of continuing a futile fight, they should work with the state and federal governments to mitigate the community’s concerns.

There is no reason the crossing should be a negative for the devastated Delray neighborhood. The international trade expected to be generated by the bridge should create opportunities for warehouses and other logistic industry investments, and with them much needed jobs. The focus now should be on training local workers for those jobs, and making sure development unfolds in a manner that benefits the neighborhood.

As for Moroun, he should accept that he’s lost this battle. Further legal maneuvering is pointless. He has a major investment in the Ambassador Bridge, and it is natural that he would want to protect it.

But the government has no compelling interest in damaging Moroun’s business. He should be working with the state to assure there’s enough traffic to sustain both spans. Increasing trade traffic is the objective, after all.

Once construction begins, it will take five years to complete the crossing. There should be no further needless delays. This is a project vital to the region’s economy.

Originally posted by The Detroit News