Michigan needs its new trade crossing

Snyder, Richardville must continue fight to pass bills

Lansing State Journal

After months of work by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to support the New International Trade Crossing, the project got hung up in a Senate committee.

It may be moved to a new committee to keep it alive. That’s the right call. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Snyder must not give up this fight.

Michigan needs the new crossing. Snyder has worked carefully with the Canadian government to craft a plan that will build it without using Michigan tax dollars. Canada will pay Michigan’s $550 million share of construction costs, to be paid back by toll revenue.

Business and labor leaders across the state support the new bridge project. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the project. Snyder and four past governors of Michigan support it.

The Canadian government is eager for a new crossing with better highway connections, one that would take heavy truck traffic off Windsor’s busy streets. For that reason, it’s not likely to support Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun’s plan to build his own second span next to his existing bridge.

Detroit is the nation’s busiest commercial border crossing, with $120 billion in goods crossing annually. Construction of a new crossing would generate some 10,000 construction jobs, a sorely needed boost to Michigan’s economy.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is one of the GOP senators supporting the new bridge. Aside from economic impact, Jones is concerned about the national security implications of Moroun’s bridge, which could be sold in a private deal.

The new trade crossing would be publicly owned, but privately operated, assuring access for shipping without meddling by those seeking to advance their own agendas.

Moroun’s manipulation of the Michigan Legislature is concerning. He spent nearly $5 million in advertising in the past six months, much of it blasting Snyder or targeted to pressure individual lawmakers.

And that doesn’t count additional millions in campaign contributions.

Michigan must not let Moroun block this much needed new bridge.

Pass the New International Trade Crossing project, senators.

An LSJ editorial

Vote on proposal to allow Michigan-Canada bridge appears unlikely for Wednesday in Senate

Associated Press

by Tim Martin

LANSING, Mich. — The fate of legislation that would allow Michigan to get involved with a partnership to build a new bridge linking Detroit and Canada remained uncertain Tuesday after another day of testimony on the proposal.

The Republican-led Senate Economic Development Committee had expected a possible vote on the hotly contested proposal Wednesday. But that appeared unlikely after Tuesday’s hearing, said Sen. Mike Kowall, a Republican from Oakland County’s White Lake Township and chairman of the committee.

Kowall acknowledged there may be not enough votes on the committee to approve the measure and send it to the Senate floor at this point.

Bridge supporters could let the committee continue work on the proposal, or bypass the committee and discharge the bill directly to the floor for a vote of the full, 38-member Senate. If that fails, it’s possible Republican Gov. Rick Snyder — a supporter of the bridge project — could try to bypass the Legislature and authorize the state to get involved with the project on his own.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor’s intent and preference is to work with the Legislature to authorize the project, called the New International Trade Crossing.

“He’s continuing to make the case the NITC is the right thing for Michigan,” Wurfel said.

Many businesses, including Michigan’s auto companies, support building a new Detroit-Windsor bridge to aid passenger and commercial traffic. The plan would involve a public authority to oversee the project, which would be backed by private investors. Michigan would rely on $550 million from Canada for related improvements, a loan that could be repaid through bridge tolls.

The new bridge would be built near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor. The private owners of the Ambassador Bridge oppose the new bridge and want to expand their own operation.

Ambassador Bridge owners say a publicly supported bridge would unfairly compete with their own and could leave Michigan taxpayers liable if the project doesn’t pan out.

Supporters of the new bridge say the legislation is crafted to make sure Michigan taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the project.

Ontario Trucking Association News Release: Michigan Senate Delays New Windsor-Detroit Bridge

Ontario Trucking Association News Release

Media contact: Doug Switzer, Vice President Public Affairs,
(416) 249-7401 Ext. 238 – doug.switzer@ontruck.org

December 2, 2010

Michigan Senate Delays New Windsor-Detroit Bridge

TORONTO – In Lansing Michigan today, the Michigan Senate rejected a last minute attempt to secure passage of the legislation which would have enabled the construction of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit as proposed by the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) process.

Ontario Trucking Association President David Bradley called the Senate’s action “unfortunate”, saying, “It’s extremely disappointing that the Michigan Senate has chosen to stall progress on this important project, costing Michigan and Ontario tens of thousands of construction jobs next year, but even more seriously, damaging the economic recovery of the region by signalling to potential investors that the all important trade link between Ontario and Michigan will continue to be tenuous. The impact on investment decisions and on manufacturing jobs is the real story of the Senate’s decision.”

“A supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and right now for too many shippers and carriers, Windsor-Detroit is a weak link.”

He went on to say that, “In no way does this mean that DRIC is dead. It merely pushes the decision out to the incoming Legislature in Michigan and we remain confident that the new legislators, once they understand how important this is for Michigan’s economic recovery, will proceed with the new crossing.”

Michigan Senate still plans to (maybe) get to a DRIC vote, but not yet

“Politicians and wonks on both sides of the Detroit River have considered the border crossing issue for most of the decade. Both pro-DRIC and anti-DRIC viewpoints have been well represented and explored ad nauseam in all manner of local media.” – Mlive.com

Jeff T. Wattrick | MLive.com

State Senator Ray Basham’s effort to force a floor vote on the Detroit River International Crossing plan Windsor was again delayed this afternoon.

Dec. 1, CBC: Senator Ray Basham called for a discharge vote Tuesday which frees the bill from the Senate committee and allows the floor to vote. Recognizing there weren’t enough votes to see the bill passed, Democratic Senator Buzz Thomas moved to postpone the vote to Wednesday. That vote has now been moved to Thursday.

The state House passed the DRIC bill in May but the proposal has been stalled in the Senate ever since. The legislature is expected to adjourn for the year following tomorrow’s session.

Basham says the Senate’s DRIC supporters plan to use the next 24 hours to lobby their colleagues on behalf of the proposal. This last minute lobbying raises a critical question about our esteemed representatives in Lansing: Are they even paying attention?

Politicians and wonks on both sides of the Detroit River have considered the border crossing issue for most of the decade. Both pro-DRIC and anti-DRIC viewpoints have been well represented and explored ad nauseam in all manner of local media.

Senators who haven’t yet formed an opinion, one way or another, on this issue have no business holding elected office. Infrastructure at North America’s busiest commercial border crossing is kind of a big issue for Michigan. Or it should be, anyway.

The binational study that produced the DRIC plan began in 2004. The House handed off DRIC to the Senate almost six months ago. Any Senator suggesting postponement on the DRIC vote because they don’t want anything “jammed down their throats” is either a liar or woefully incompetent. Possibly both.

One way or another, the Senate needs to vote on this thing and put it to bed. Because, you know, it’s what we pay them to do.

Michigan vote on DRIC bridge looms large

A vote on legislation committing the state on Michigan to the $5-billion DRIC bridge project should happen in the next few weeks, a Detroit-area senator said Friday.

“I’m optimistic we will deal with it soon,” said Senator Ray Basham (D — Taylor) on Friday. “I do feel comfortable things are still progressing to get this resolved.”

Political support from the state is the last major hurdle to move the Windsor-Detroit border infrastructure effort forward.

Renewed discussion on DRIC could take place in the state capital Lansing on Tuesday when a meeting is scheduled for the Senate transportation committee, although the issue is not officially on the agenda. Committee approval is first needed and then gets brought forward to the full Senate for consideration.

Politicians on the transportation committee are trying to determine whether to substitute wording in the public-private partnership (P-3) legislation that includes approval for DRIC or separate the border proposal to be voted on separately, according to an official with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Basham, the transportation committee’s vice-chairman, said rumors persist that Republican committee chairman Jud Gilbert (R — Algonac) will bring forward a motion that limits a vote on DRIC only.

“Some of my colleagues felt (the original bill) gives too much authority to MDOT through broad language with public-private partnerships,” Basham said.

The state’s Democrat-controlled House of Representatives narrowly gave approval in late May in a 56 to 51 vote. A rubber stamp from the Senate has for months been repeatedly delayed because of political wrangling.

The issue has Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun on one side lobbying the Senate to kill DRIC and protect his bridge’s financial interests, while the Canadian government, in exchange for Michigan’s political approval, has offered up to $550 million to pay the state’s costs to build DRIC.

“The government of Canada remains committed to the building of a new Detroit River crossing that is subject to appropriate public oversight and we continue to work closely with Michigan and the U.S. government to advance this project,” Mark Butler, spokesman for Transport Canada, said on Friday.

“We are monitoring the Michigan legislative process and look forward to building the new DRIC bridge which is so important to the shared economies of Canada and the United States.”

Do the right thing on DRIC

August 14, 2010

Lawmakers could be moving toward the right solution for the Detroit River International Crossing bridge.

Algonac Republican Sen. Jud Gilbert told Gongwer News Service this week that he plans to revise the DRIC bill to take out broad language on public-private partnerships (so-called P3s) and narrow the bill’s focus to just the DRIC project. Gilbert also hopes to make language more specific to assure taxpayers won’t be on the hook for financial failure in the future.

As noted here earlier this year, DRIC is an important project for the state. But using DRIC as the opportunity to create broad P3 legislation turned into a legislative logjam.

Taking the most direct route to DRIC – by narrowing the legislation to focus on just that project – is the needed action.