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Mich. Gov. Says Bridge Would Strengthen Ties to Canada

Tue November 22, 2011 - Midwest Edition
Kathy Barks Hoffman - ASSOCIATED PRESS



EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Oct. 18 he wants to strengthen economic ties with Canada, adding that one of the best ways to make that happen is to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The New International Trade Crossing is “critically important” to expanding international trade between the United States and Canada, the governor told the Great Lakes International Trade and Transport Hub Summit at Michigan State University. Snyder added he wants an expanded partnership with Canada that includes nearby states, such as Indiana and Ohio, and that can boost the entire region’s economy.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit oppose a second bridge, saying a publicly supported span across the Detroit River 2 mi. to the south would unfairly compete with their own. They’ve proposed adding a second span to their 83-year-old bridge, a move opposed by Snyder and Canadian officials.

Some Republican lawmakers side with Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun and have balked at backing the separate bridge, making it hard for Snyder to secure the votes needed to begin the project.

The Snyder administration has hinted it might unilaterally move ahead with the bridge project if the state Legislature won’t go along, but said it is focused now on persuading lawmakers to back the legislation.

“I’m talking to some legislators to make sure I convey how I feel about this, making sure I understand their issues and respond to any questions they have,” Snyder told reporters. “Clearly my intent’s been to work with the Legislature, and we’re continuing on that path.”

He emphasized again that Michigan taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the new bridge, which would be privately financed, built and run. The Ambassador Bridge owners and their supporters have repeatedly warned that there’s not enough traffic to support two separate bridges and that it would become a burden on Michigan taxpayers, but Snyder said language in the bill would prevent that from happening.

Consul General of Canada Roy Norton also promoted the New International Trade Crossing when he spoke to the summit on Oct. 17. Canadian officials are so confident the bridge will be built that construction has begun on a road that would link to it. Canada has pledged to cover Michigan’s $550 million share to build a plaza on the United States side of the bridge, eventually recouping the money from tolls.

Snyder echoed that confidence .

“I’m convinced that we’re going to make positive progress, we’ll get something done,” he said. “I look forward to building the bridge.”

As part of Michigan’s broader ties with its Canadian neighbor, Snyder would like to see passenger rail service between Pontiac, about 30 mi. northwest of Detroit, to Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

He also wants the Detroit Region Aerotropolis to help expand trade along the North American trade corridor stretching into Canada, and is actively promoting Michigan and the Great Lakes area as a top value spot to do business.