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U.S. Green-Lights International Bridge

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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To cheers from both sides of the border, President Obama has signed a Presidential Permit that clears the way for construction of a new $1 billion bridge linking Canada and the United States.

The State Department blessed the project Friday (April 12) with the permit to the State of Michigan—the last official approval required for construction of a second bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit.

The project—officially, the New International Trade Crossing—will be entirely funded by Canada and repaid through tolls.

Ambassador Bridge

Built in 1929, the four-lane Ambassador Bridge currently carries more than 10,000 vehicles a day between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The crossing “will serve the national interest,” the State Department said in announcing the Presidential Permit.

The crossing “will help to meet future capacity requirements in a critical travel corridor, promote cross-border trade and commerce, and advance our vital bilateral relationship with Canada,” the State Department said.

'All of the Necessary Approvals'

The U.S. State Department issues Presidential Permits for the construction, connection, operation or maintenance of certain facilities at U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Permits are required for land crossings, bridges, pipelines, tunnels and tramways.

"This is all about jobs for today and tomorrow," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, said in a prepared statement after the permit was issued. "This is a major construction project that is expected to create 12,000 direct jobs and as many as 31,000 indirect jobs.”

Appearing with Snyder at a press conference Friday, Canadian Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said, "With today's permit, we now have all of the necessary approvals in both countries to proceed with construction—and that’s a wonderful, wonderful process.”

Nuts and Bolts

Michigan applied for the Presidential  Permit on June 21, 2012, six days after Snyder signed the New International Trade Crossing Agreement with Canadian officials. The agreement was subject to approval by the State Department, which conducted an extended comment period on the plan.

NITC rendering
Michigan DOT

The rendering shows the New International Trade Crossing from the Canadian side in Windsor, Ontario. The Ambassador Bridge is in the far background.

The cost of the six-lane crossing, including adjacent highway and plaza development, is estimated at $2.1 billion.

The Crossing will fall under a joint authority, with half the bridge owned by Michigan and half by Canada.

$128B Crossing

The Windsor-Detroit crossing is the busiest in the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship, with more than $128 billion ($130 Canadian) billion in shipments and 8,000 trucks crossing each day, according to Canadian government data.

Truck traffic is expected to triple over the next 30 years, the country’s transport department estimates.

Among the project's many business backers is the Chrysler Corp., which says that it moves more than 1,300 component shipments, 2,000 cars and trucks, and makes more than 1,600 customs entries daily. Hundreds of Chrysler employees also cross the bridge daily, the automaker has said.

“Chrysler's just-in-time manufacturing process is integrated throughout all of our North American plants,” the company says.

Ambassador Bridge

Many businesses have endorsed the new crossing. They include the Chrysler Corp., which ships thousands of vehicles and components across the Ambassador Bridge each day.

“For example, engines made in Trenton or stampings from Warren or Sterling Heights cross the border daily for use at assembly plants in Ontario. Canadian-made vehicles and components also cross the border daily destined for U.S. dealerships or assembly plants.”

Foes Fight On

Not giving up his years of opposition to the project is trucking industrialist Manuel “Matty” Moroun, whose privately owned, four-lane Ambassador Bridge two miles away has had a monopoly on the crossing since 1929. (Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. has owned the bridge since 1979; he claims an exclusive franchise to do so.)

Through lawsuits, ballot efforts and even jail terms, Moroun’s company has fought the new crossing tooth and nail.

Manuel "Matty" Moroun (left) and his Detroit International Bridge Co. have sparred unsuccessfully for years with Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards. A new lawsuit by Moroun is not expected to slow construction.

Moroun filed a new lawsuit in February to attempt to stop the project, and he is likely to seek an injunction to block the Presidential Permit, reports said. The latest attempt is widely considered unlikely to succeed; Moroun's legal claims have been rejected repeatedly over the years.

Next Steps

Despite the new litigation, construction of the bridge is expected to begin on schedule about 2015.

Next steps include naming members to the International Authority that will oversee the project, planning for the relocation of utilities, initiating the process for land acquisition, and applying for a U.S. Coast Guard permit.

The entire project will take about seven years and includes the building of interchange ramps and an inspection plaza, but the bridge is expected to open in 2020, officials say.

Still undecided: the bridge’s name.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Government; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; President Obama; Transportation

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