Jun 16, 2010

Bridge company rolls out some new excuses to kill the popular and bipartisan DRIC bridge

Employees of the Ambassador Bridge Company didn’t miss a trick on why they should keep their monopoly on the 81-year old bridge and the only private international border crossing for motor vehicles in North America.

On Tuesday the Senate Transportation Committee continued hearings on House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada, the U.S. and a private sector developer/financier to build the much-needed planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit River between Canada and Windsor. Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) President Dan Stamper testified before the committee, continuing his company’s misinformation campaign. Stamper threw in the kitchen sink against the DRIC bridge, including his favorite whipping boy, Canada, for daring to pick up Michigan’s cost for the bridge and wanting a different location for a new bridge to land on the Canadian side.

According to subscription only Gongwer, Stamper said “the DRIC represented a continuation of Michigan rolling over to Canadian interests, citing the practice of Toronto sending its waste to Michigan landfills.” According to subscription only MIRS, Stamper said “Canada is lusting over Michigan's sovereignty by agreeing to cover Michigan's $550 million cost for the bridge.”
"Canada will have powers in Michigan," Stamper said. "This is the biggest power grab in history." Robert Noble, the Consul General for the Canadian government, laughed off the comment as ridiculous in his press availability after the hearing.

One of the more bizarre reasons for the bridge company has put out to kill the DRIC bridge is that the traffic study proves there is no need for a second span, but Stamper offered no explanation on why the bridge company is already building a second span without a single permit. The company has been ordered by Wayne County Circuit Court to tear it down and return the property they illegally took to build on.
Stamper them made the claim that the Legislature would need a two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, along with a public vote, to authorize the financing. When that was debunked, he then went on to claim that it would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution in that Michigan would be entering into a financial agreement with a foreign power without Congressional sign-off, something that is barred by Article 1, Section 10. The only problem with that is that the DRIC project has the support of the federal government.

There was also disagreement between the bridge company and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) about how the $170 million Gateway Project that addressed long term congestion mitigation issues and provided direct access improvements between the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96 was configured. MDOT said the Ambassador Bridge folks didn't live up to their agreement in building the project. The bridge company used delaying tactics in the hope it would hamper the DRIC bridge, and it almost required the state to pay back the federal money for the project. Stamper blamed MDOT for not allowing the completed project to open, but the courts ordered the bridge company to tear down the start of the second span.

No vote was taken on HB 4961. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, promised an up or down vote on the bill some time ago, but he reneged last week, saying there would be no vote because MDOT declined to release revenue data on how much money the tolls from a new DRIC bridge would generate. MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said he supplied what was called for and releasing the revenue data would worsen the state's negotiating position when hiring a concessionaire to participate in the public-private partnership that would oversee the new bridge.

However, in an attempt to jump over another blockade thrown up by Republicans going to bat for Ambassador Bridge owner and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun, he released that data to committee members today.

Hopefully, the committee will vote the bill out of committee next Tuesday.

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