Jun 30, 2010

DRIC bridge and 10,000 Michigan jobs dead until at least the Lame Duck session

The Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee said he was going to slow walk any attempt to build the much-needed planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit River between Canada and Windsor, and he confirmed that Tuesday with a speech on the Senate floor.

The Transportation Committee has been holding hearings on House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the bridge, but Senate Republicans – the only Republicans in the state – are against the bridge, and they have fought any attempt to build the bridge in order to help Republican benefactor Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, keep his monopoly.

Chair of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, said the committee held six hearing on the DRIC totaling 10 hours of testimony, as well as testimony in 2006. He said despite four years of lead time, he was not going to be rushed. He complained that the committee did not get HB 4961 until last May, despite the fact that it had been introduced in May 2009 in the House.

“For years, the House worked on the proposal, and we were not privy to how or why certain changes were made to the bill,” he said. “But now after a year’s work by the House, the Senate is expected to ram this measure through in a matter of weeks.”

It makes you wonder if he was living in a cave since 2006, or why he is against working with his counterparts in the House.

He also questioned Canada’s offer to pick up Michigan’s $550 million share of the project.

“In addition, there are questions on how Canada’s financial contribution to a bridge project would work,” Gilbert said. “Would it be a gift; A loan; What are the ramifications; If it is a loan, would that trigger the constitutional requirements of a two-thirds vote by the Legislature?”

Gilbert said the committee will continue to sort through the details to make an informed decision, but he will not be rushed. However, he has pledged to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and all interested parties.

That means it will not get done this summer, and it will have to be taken up in the Lame Duck session in November.

“My top priority throughout all of this is to protect the Michigan taxpayer,” he said. “I will not support any legislation on DRIC from this body that will leave the taxpayer on the hook for one single dime.”

Sen. Ray Basham, the Minority Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee, said he appreciated Gilbert’s fair handling of the hearings and attempt to get the facts, but he set the record straight on the Canadian offer.

“I especially appreciated the testimony of transport minister John Baird who came before our committee a week ago,” he said. “But I do remember John Baird saying that this was not a loan. This was Canada putting up the money that Michigan would have put up had it been able to and then Canada getting its money back through tolls.”

Basham also said this was not a new concept, and the U.S. did the same thing for Canada in 1938 with the Blue Water Bridge.

“Also Canada has been our partner, even in the war in Afghanistan, and suffered losses also,” Basham said. “They have also been our partner in transportation and commerce. They are our partner in many things and will continue to be.”

1 comment:

Ado said...

Bridge traffic to Canada is steadily declining, that is a fact. Why is another bridge needed to support the reduced bridge usage? The only reason I can see is to line the pockets of politicians and the pockets of those companies who have lobbied the politicians to build yet another classic boondoggle that taxpayers will be stuck paying for. The only intelligent decision is to scrap bridge building plans until such a time when traffic to Canada justifies building an additional bridge.