Michigan Bridge Deal Reached

Terms have been settled that pave the way for the construction of a second bridge connecting Detroit, Mich. and Windsor, Ontario, a $4 billion project. The plan is to relieve the pressure on the heavily traveled Ambassador Bridge on the U.S.-Canada border, built 83 years ago. Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the plans recently.

The New International Trade Crossing (NITC), which will connect Highway 401 in Canada and I-75 in Michigan, will enable trucks to circumvent residential communities and ease the ongoing problem of traffic congestion as well.

When the announcement was made, Gov. Snyder noted that approximately 8,000 trucks cross the Ambassador Bridge every day, and the traffic jams resulting from the situation hinder economic opportunities and the growth of trade for both Michigan and Ontario.

Because of intense lobbying efforts by those who own the current bridge, the governor has been hindered in having the project approved by the Michigan legislature. This prompted him to reach an agreement with Canada whereby Canada will pay Michigan’s share of the project, $550 million.

Under this agreement, an International Authority will be created to monitor the designing, financing, construction and operation of the NITC. Three of its members will be appointed by Michigan, and three will be appointed by Canada.

In Michigan, there will be no tolls for using the bridge, and in Canada, tolls will be charged to repay the government for the funds it advances for the project, along with the annual availability payments it makes to the concessionaire.

Those who oppose the project claim that Ambassador Bridge traffic has declined significantly in recent years, and that the governor has yet to prove that a second bridge is really needed. In addition, officials in Canada feel that there is a need to focus on long-term solutions in dealing with the growing commerce over the Detroit River, as opposed to short-term statistics alone.

When the project will begin has not yet been revealed, but environmental approval for building the bridge was granted after completion of an extensive bi-national study, It is estimated that constructing the new bridge will take at least four or five years, perhaps as many as six or seven, according to Canadian officials.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) fully supports the project. David Bradley, CTA president, explains that getting to this point has been far from easy, due to years of political disagreement that caused the delay, while truckers had to cope with 16 stoplights on the road that leads to the Ambassador Bridge. He used the world “thrilled” to explain the truckers’ reaction to the news.

Bradley also pointed out that when completed, the new bridge will improve the reliability and efficiency of North America’s supply chain, which will encourage direct investment in the future and spur economic growth throughout the region.

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