Republican Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson joined Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis Wednesday to support the downriver Detroit-Windsor border crossing near Zug Island proposed by the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) Study.
The endorsement by the prominent Republican Patterson may put an end to the lobbying effort of Grosse Pointe transportation billionaire Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, and GOP opposition to the DRIC study, as well as Moroun’s plan to build the exact same bridge next to the current one. The bridge will be a bridge to no where because Canadian law says an international border crossing may not be in private hands. The Ambassador is only one of two border crossings in the country owned by a private entity. Canada officials
announced last monththat the Canadian location will be directly across from the American crossing chosen by the DRIC study.
Moroun has and continues to conduct an intense lobbying effort on both sides of the river with his deep pockets, and his main ally on the American side in state Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, the Senate Majority Floor Leader. He has held up the state transportation budget because of it. It remains to be seen if he will now back down based on Patterson’s endorsement.
The private, for profit bridge company has fought hard in an effort to keep its monopoly, saying there is not enough traffic to justify a second crossing, and then contradicting that by going forward with building a second span right next to the current one, despite not having clearance from the Canadian government to connect it to Canadian soil. Additionally, traffic on the Canadian side of the Ambassador empties into a city street in downtown Windsor, and trucks must go through 17 stop lights to reach the freeway. Backups can be as long as 5 miles, and Canadian officials do not want to see more traffic dumped onto city streets.
"The DRIC Downriver Border Crossing is the absolutely best alternative because it will significantly ease traffic congestion between Detroit and Windsor thus enhancing the ability of companies on both sides of the river to get their products to market in a timely and efficient manner," Patterson said in a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) press release.
The DRIC study indicates that Canada-US trade supports 7.1 million U.S. jobs including 221,500 Michigan jobs and one in three Canadian jobs.
Last year, Canadians made more than 1.2 million visits to Michigan and spent $208 million. Michigan exports to Canada total $13 billion, representing 61percent of its foreign sales. In addition, the U.S. exports about $135 billion worth of goods every year to Ontario. To put this in perspective, the U.S. sells only $55 billion annually to all of China.
"The Windsor-Detroit Gateway is more than a river crossing. It is not only vitally important to the economies of Windsor and Southeast Michigan, it is a critical supply chain stretching from Montreal to the Port of Los Angeles. Windsor supports the preferred location announced recently by the bi-national study to locate the next crossing in the Brighton Beach industrial area of the city," Francis said.
Two bridge designs are currently under consideration for the downriver border crossing. One is a suspension bridge, similar to the Ambassador Bridge. The other is a cable stay bridge similar to the Denver Millennium Bridge. The cable stay bridge is less expensive and more in vogue today around the world.
Partners in the Detroit River International Crossing study are the U.S. Federal Highway Administration; MDOT; Transport Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The timeline for the project calls for property acquisition in 2009, construction starting in 2010 and the opening of the border crossing in 2014.
According to MDOT, the project will be government owned and maintained with the private sector playing a role in construction and operation of the facility. Details still need to be worked out. The cost of the project to the U.S. will be approximately $1.25 billion for the bridge, plaza and interchange. However, less than 10 percent of the total cost will come from Michigan, none of which will be General Fund dollars.