Apr 21, 2010

DRIC bridge moves forward with committee hearing on public-private partnership bill

The first step in building a public-private Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge between Detroit and Windsor will begin Thursday when the House Transportation Committee takes testimony on House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier and create and save thousands of Michigan jobs.

State, local and Canadian officials - along with leaders from business and labor - held a press conference last Friday to try and persuade a reluctant Legislature – most notably the Senate Republicans - to authorize the construction of a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor. The press conference - held at the Detroit Regional Chamber's headquarters - included Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Chamber President Sandy Baruah, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, former Governor James Blanchard, Steve Biegun, Ford Motor Company vice president for international government affairs; Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney; Shorty Gleason, president of the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Council, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and a half-dozen legislators.

The DRIC Bridge has bipartisan support, but Senate Republicans have been doing what they can to protect the monopoly of Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge. Moroun has said both there is not enough traffic to warrant a second span, yet he is trying to build a second span. However, he has not been able to secure the necessary permits; not that it has stopped him from building anyway. Both Canadian and U.S. officials want to build a new, modern crossing a few miles downstream of the current Ambassador Bridge.

Despite the support of Patterson, one of the state’s leading Republicans, Senate Majority Floor Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, continues to do everything in his power to block the DRIC bridge.
Cropsey told subscription only Gongwer that Patterson is only supporting the DRIC to win favor with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) so it will agree to widen I-75 in Oakland County, a long-sought major project there. Cropsey told Gongwer that he had no proof of such an arrangement, but "that's what's going on."

The House Transportation Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 21 in room 521 of the House Office Building in Lansing. The meeting is open to the public.