Bridge to Canada should be easiest legislative decision of the year

By Andrew Justus | 11/2/11 11:38pm


As all the 19-year-olds looking to get their drink on know, getting to Canada via Detroit is a painfully slow process.

Today, a single bridge and tunnel connect the two countries. The Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel were built in 1929 and 1930, respectively, and carry a measly three lanes of traffic in each direction, leading to frequent delays at the busiest crossing point between the two nations. This places considerable strain on cross-border trade and teenagers’ ability to get buzzed in the Great White North.

Gov. Snyder’s plan for a new bridge to Canada over the Detroit River is on the ropes. A lobbying and public relations blitz by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun seems to be winning over state legislators even though the public at large wants a new bridge.

Every interest in our state is on the side of building a new bridge to add capacity to the United States’ busiest link with Canada. Detroiters want the jobs, truckers and the major automakers want to move goods across the border faster, Canada wants it so bad they are willing to pay Michigan’s share of the bill just to divert the parade of semi trucks that currently traverse downtown Windsor and those concerned with national security want to make it harder for terrorists to bring trade with our northern neighbor to a halt. If choosing to build a new bridge sounds like this should be the easiest decision the state legislature has made all year, that’s because logically it is.

However, one interest stands in the way. Moroun is worried his bridge will lose money when a new span is built. In response, he has spent millions of dollars to lobby legislators and sway the public to his side. Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge represents the only international border crossing in the U.S. that tries to operate at a profit. All others are owned by governmental agencies and operate as a public service.

Some think the governor will simply order the bridge to be built even if the legislature refuses to sign off on it, but that plan would frustrate the legislature and could cause problems down the road if the new bridge ever required funding from the state, although it is not expected to need it. The other alternative involves letting your state representative and state senator know you not only want to speedily cross the border to consume copious amounts of Canadian Club, but also want to ensure that our state’s economy can benefit from increased trade with Canada, which will only be possible with a second bridge across the Detroit River.

ajustus@lanthorn.com

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