Jun 12, 2008

Bridge company reps skip hearing

LANSING -- The representatives from the Detroit International Bridge Company, the private company that owns the Ambassador Bridge, played hooky from the House Transportation Subcommittee Tuesday that was anticipating taking testimony on the DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing) study.

The lobbyist for the bridge company, Mickey Blashfield, and company president Dan Stamper were supposed to testify before the panel Tuesday, but they opted out by sending a letter to Subcommittee Chair Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint, in which he said it was "not possible to adjust pre-existing schedules and prepare further testimony,” according to the subscription only MIRS. But in a mid-day news conference, according to MIRS, Gonzales told reporters that he'd spotted Blashfield in the lobby of the House Office Building shortly after he'd adjourned the hearing. Then the Flint Democrat blasted Blashfield for skipping his scheduled testimony and handed out a copy of the letter he said Blashfield had sent him, claiming that he couldn't testify due to the scheduling problem.

“They wanted to hear what MDOT had to say before they testified,” Gonzales said during the abbreviated hearing. “They are acting like Obama and Clinton.”

That will change Thursday, and the bridge company representatives are expected to testify at 10:30 a.m. today in the HOB.

Amazingly enough, in the era of 9/11 the busiest international border in North America is owned by a private for-profit-company. Currently, the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America, handling 20 percent more trucks than its closest competitor and almost double the commercial traffic of the next busiest crossing on the Canadian border. In all, almost 30 percent of all U.S./Canada trade and over 25 percent of the truck traffic between the U.S. and Canada passes through the Detroit-Windsor gateway. This U.S.-Canadian trade directly supports 7.1 million U.S. jobs, 221,500 Michigan jobs, and one in three Canadian jobs. More than $1 billon in trade crosses the bridge everyday.

In response to the need to increase capacity and redundancy in case something happened to the bridge, the bridge company is building a second span next to the current bridge to maintain its monopoly. Two bridges right next to each other should make a terrific target for terrorists looking to cripple the economy. Canadian law does not allow an international crossing to be in private hands, so it will be a bridge to nowhere.

In 2000, a partnership was formed by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Ontario Ministry of Transport in response to a 1998 Freight Transportation System Study by the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario looking at cross border freight activity. The purpose of the partnership is to provide for the safe, efficient and secure movement of people and goods across the U.S.-Canada border at the Detroit River in order to support the economies of Michigan, Ontario, Canada and the United States. This bi-national partnership began the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study.

Gonzales - and many other government, business and military leaders - say the decision on the crossing is the most important infrastructure decision since 1950 when the Mackinac Bridge agreement was reached.


Anonymous said...

Your comment on Canadian law is absolutely incorrect. As for the security risk, have you not heard about multi-targetting in other attacks. Reverse Customs would end that concern immediately!

Hmmm do you think there is a connection here: "for profit" and busiest crossing "handling 20 percent more trucks than its closest competitor and almost double the commercial traffic of the next busiest crossing on the Canadian border.

The DRIC project would cost Michigan taxpayers billions in cost for building the new bridge and the lost federal matching grants of about $2B, never mind the hundreds of homes and businesses that would be destroyed in Delray.

Communications guru said...

I don’t think I’m incorrect on Canadian law, but I could be wrong. Why don’t you tell me why I’m wrong. You may be right. However, the Canadians are saying they will not give the new twin bridge a permit.

I’m missing the point about multi-targetting and reverse customs. However, I’m new to the issue, but at least one retired general in support of the DRIC study said the proximity of the twin bridge is a concern for him.

No, I don’t see the connection between a private, for-profit-company owning an international border crossing and how busy it is. It has more to do with the location.

It will cost the same amount for the DRIC crossing as it will for the new twin bridge. The users will pay for it. The bridge company and Matty Moroun have already gobbled up quite a lot of property, but I don’t know much about it because they are a private company with less transparency.

Brett said...

Amazingly enough, in the era of 9/11 the busiest international border in North America is owned by a private for-profit-company.
The above is your quote from your writing. My question:

What is the problem of a "private for-profit-company" building and then collecting the tolls to pay for their expense of the bridge?


Communications guru said...

Nothing, but the problem with a private company owning public infrastructure is they can conceivably say who can or cannot use it. I have concerns with a company owning such an important and sensitive border crossing where the overriding concern is profit; not security or safety. But I, or anyone else, am not advocating taking that away from them.

Brett said...

That's incorrect. A private owner may own a bridge, collect their fees for the use of the bridge, but when it's on a border from our country to another, the Federal Government has control of who may or may not use it.

It is the responsibility of the goverment to protect the borders. It is NOT the responsibility of the owner.

Toll collectors on the bridge and the tunnel are the employees of the owners. But the border inspectors are an arm of law enforcement.

Maintenance of the bridge is the responsibility of the owner of the bridge. Insurance on the bridge, is the bridge owner. The government, however, is responsible for anyone crossing.

The only way that a person may be stopped from using the bridge, by the bridge owner, is if they refuse to pay the toll. They won't stop you because you're black or white, or tall or short, or liberal or conservative.

One thing that I do hope for is that the toll collector has the ability to stop a car if they believe it's suspicious. They would then turn it over to the border security.

It's been several years since I've been across the bridge to Canada or any other country for that matter, so I may be wrong about one thing. Since September 11, 2001 when we were attacked unprovoked and 3,000 citizens were murderred, it is possible that the toll collectors are now either trained by the Government or government workers that are border agents. If that's the case, I would assume that the bridge owner is now paying the government a percentage of their take to defray the costs of the worker that the employer would normally have to pay if they were just toll collectors.

I am all for private enterprise handling all aspects of business in any field with the exception of the military.

There are efficient ways to have private enterprise work with the government when it comes to national security.

This is why I think the answers given by the government regarding inspection of cargo coming to our ports is poor. Their answer is that we just can't inspect that much. Same with illegal immigration. "We just can't gather up all 12 million illegals."

My answer to that is BS!! We are the United States of America. The greatest country in the world with the greatest technology in the world and the most ingenious people in the world. We can find a way to protect the borders, protect the ports, and get rid of the illegal immigratns if we only have the cajonies to put our minds to it and get it done.

Anything less than an attempt to cover 100% of our borders is just an excuse that I find unacceptable.


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