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.