OTTAWA — Canada offered the state of Michigan up to $550 million as a sweetener to get the legislature to give final approval to the building of a controversial new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
The Canadian government is willing to increase its share of the cost of the proposed Detroit River International Crossing by that amount, Federal Transport Minister John Baird said Thursday.
The total cost of the project is expected to be $5.3 billion, by far the largest part on the Canadian side because it will cost more than $1 billion to build an extensive new approach road through Windsor. The approach would be partly underground to buffer noise for residents and would replace the present route, which follows city streets past 16 stoplights.
Michigan Governor Granholm went before the state House of Representatives Transportation Committee to read into the record a letter from Baird offering the additional $550 million to bankroll Michigan’s costs of the project.
Baird in Ottawa said Canada "is committed to build a new bridge crossing at the Windsor-Detroit border, and this funding commitment is another step we are taking to accelerate the start of its construction."
The "increased financial participation would be for project components in Michigan, and will be repaid to Canada over time,” the Canadian government said. Baird told reporters the repaying over time would be through tolls collected.
Baird’s letter and Governor Granholm’s appearance before the House Transportation Committee in Lansing came as the committee was holding hearings on a bill to give Michigan the authority to pursue public-private partnerships generally in major infrastructure projects and to agree with Ontario and with the federal Canadian government to build DRIC.
The DRIC would effectively replace the venerable and storied Ambassador Bridge, by far the busiest commercial crossing between the two countries. It is controversial in Michigan politics. Defenders of the new bridge support building it two miles from the Ambassador Bridge. Opponents support Ambassador owner Manuel Moroun, who wants to twin the existing bridge with a new span at the present site. Moroun has launched a series of suits against Michigan and the U.S. and Canadian federal governments, saying he is illegally being harried out of business.
"Michigan is not and should not be for sale,” Dan Stamper, president of Moroun’s bridge company, said in a statement. Canada and the United States should support Moroun’s proposed twin span, he said.
The transportation committee approved the bill and recommended it for adoption by the full House. Debate on similar legislation begins in the state Senate next week. All environmental and other approvals have been given by the federal, state and provincial governments. Michigan’s state legislature is the last hurdle.
Baird said this one crossing sees more than 8,000 trucks and 68,000 travelers daily, handling almost 30 percent of all Canada-U.S. trade per year. “In the next 30 years, truck traffic along this corridor is expected to triple and vehicle traffic will double," he said.
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