Battle Over Detroit River Bridge
BY ROGER CASTILLO, Staff Writer
The vote for a public bridge did not pass in the Michigan Senate last Thursday. This was the first major legislative setback that Gov. Rick Snyder has had. He has been a huge supporter of this bill.
The bill for the new International Trade Crossing was defeated 3-2 in the Senate Economic Development Committee, with two Detroit Democrats, Sens. Tupac Hunter and Virgil Smith, abstaining from the vote.
“Even being the positive guy I am, I will acknowledge that we have had a setback today,” Snyder told reporters after the vote.
Minutes prior to the vote for the original bill for the bridge legislation, a substitute bill that the state Democrats supported was voted down, 5-2. The bill would have supported community benefits for the Delray neighborhood around the bridge site that the original bill did not address.
Snyder came out in January in favor of this new bridge, citing that it would help jump-start Michigan’s economy as a major construction project. Those in favor of it said it would help relieve major traffic headaches on the Ambassador Bridge.
It is believed that a new version of the bill will be redone for next year, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said Friday.
“I’m done with this bill — this version,” Richardville told the Detroit News on Friday after legislation voted it down.
If the bill was passed, it would have the Canadian government’s support, who has offered to cover Michigan’s cost of $550 million, and in return, Canada would receive the money back through the state’s share of bridge tolls. This bill will not cost the taxpayers any money.
A recent study that came out in September stated that while a new bridge would help relive border congestion, its best placement would be two miles to the south, not near the Ambassador Bridge.
In the center of all this is Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun. Moroun, who also owns the Michigan Central Depot, has stated that a public bridge is an unfair encroachment by government on his private business. He wants a second bridge right next to his bridge where he has already spent money building certain portions of it.
He has also spent millions of dollars on TV ads, lobbying efforts and campaign donations. Oddly enough, he spent money fixing up the Michigan Central Depot right around the time the bridge issue came up early in the year. The Depot has received new roofing and window treatments after years of neglect since its closure in 1988.
For now, an unfinished bridge looms next to the Ambassador Bridge. Construction was stopped in March 2010 after unresolved property issues and several pending court issues. Maroon filed a federal lawsuit last year against the US and Canadian governments for stopping his expansion of the twin bridge.