State Releases Plan for Expanding Blue Water Bridge Plaza

Sat December 16, 2006 - Midwest Edition

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) Approximately 130 homes and 35 businesses would be razed under a state plan for expanding the Blue Water Bridge Plaza and building a new welcome center.

The proposal, developed over four years, is designed to ease congestion and boost security on the bridge linking Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.

It calls for the Michigan Department of Transportation to keep the plaza in Port Huron and put the welcome center in Port Huron Township. A street would be rerouted and 50 acres of land purchased. Construction is expected to run from 2008 to 2011.

Officials will complete an environmental impact study and conduct a public hearing next year, said Z. Kris Wisniewski, the MDOT project manager.

“At this point, we think it’s the best [plan] that is doable,’ Wisniewski told the Times Herald for a story published Dec. 1.

But city officials fear it would hurt the municipal pocketbook. The taxable value of the affected area is $32 million, city manager Karl Tomion said.

“We’ve already experienced a loss in population and a loss in our tax base and some of that is largely facilitated by the state and federal government,” Tomion said. “Now it appears they are selecting another project that will be impacting it.”

State officials had considered moving the plaza to the township but scrapped the idea when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said that wasn’t a secure option.

Some who might have to relocate to make way for the expansion are willing to go.

Dianna Laming said her neighborhood is “pretty good” but added, “I’ve raised three boys here, [but] I’d like to get out in the country.”

Bill Harris, general manager of Port Huron Lanes, said the bowling alley’s building had aged.

“If we move, we’ll be in a newer building, the equipment would be upgraded and our customers would appreciate that,” he said.