Jun 18, 2010

Cropsey has a meltdown over DRIC

LANSING – Ambassador Bridge owner and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun’s chief lobbyist, State Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, had a meltdown on the Senate floor on Thursday while fighting off the effort to build the much-needed planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit River between Canada and Windsor.

Cropsey has gone the extra mile for Grosse Pointe billionaire in the past; at one time he appeared to be ready to declare war on Canada because they are not willing to give Moroun a permit to land a second Ambassador Bridge on Canadian soil.

The Senate was debating the budget bill for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) when Cropsey when off on a verbal tirade MDOT director Kirk Steudle following the defeat of an amendment effecting DRIC.

According to subscription only Gongwer that covers the Capitol:
“The lead critic of DRIC in the Senate, Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt), uncorked a denunciation of DRIC on the Senate floor so furious that he his voice cracked into a squeak at one point.”Kirk Steudle!" Mr. Cropsey bellowed like a parent to a child, pausing almost as if he hoped Transportation Director Kirk Steudle was in the gallery and would respond. "Why don't you give us what the Legislature requested?!"
"This is absolutely abysmal," he yelled, his voice cracking into a squeak and prompting some snickering on the floor. "Are we supposed to vote on this in the dark too, just like the House did?"

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, introduced an amendment to the budget bill – House Bill 5889 - that would remove the provision that prohibits MDOT from expending any funds on DRIC unless the Legislature passes legislation allowing the construction of DRIC.

“As you all know, we are currently deliberating on this legislation, and under current MDOT boilerplate language, that vote has to have occurred by June 1 of this year,” Basham said. “While I understand that this body is elected to delay the vote in order to fully study and evaluate the legislation, there is no certainty as to when or even if that vote will occur. I believe it is inappropriate to the MDOT expenditures to vote on the bill when we have already failed to meet our own imposed deadline.”

For the past three weeks the Senate Transportation Committee has held 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 DRIC bridge.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, promised an up or down vote on the bill some time ago, but he reneged two weeks ago, 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. Steudle said he supplied the traffic study as required, and that 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, to speed the process, Steudle released the study on Wednesday, but Senate Republicans – the only people against building the DRIC – are now saying it’s not enough and they also need at lest 30 days to study it. It also led to Cropsey’s temper tantrum.

“The report we received in our offices yesterday was a preliminary traffic and revenue study,” he said. “They dragged their feet for six weeks before they gave us the final parts of that.’

The Basham amendment failed, and the bill was then passed along party lines with one Republican joining the Democrats in opposition. However, the bill failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote for immediate effect. That is often used as a form of protest, but it will not matter much because the House and Senate passed different versions and a conference committee will have to work out the differences.

The toll study, however, showed the area will support two bridges, but it will eat into the profits of the 81-year-old private border crossing.

According to the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday:
“A proposed second bridge across the Detroit River would generate about $70 million in its first year of operation and as much as $240 million by 2035, according to a study the Michigan Department of Transportation released today
DRIC revenue during that time would rise from $70.4 million in 2016, the bridge’s first year of operation, to $238.2 million by 2035. It would be more than enough to pay off bonds that would finance the bridge, Steudle said.
Steudle acknowledged that the Ambassador Bridge would lose traffic and revenue once the new bridge is opened, but he said there will be enough of both to support DRIC, the Ambassador and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.”

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