Thursday, November 1, 2007

A "Boondoggle" of massive proportions

Does it make sense for the state of Michigan to invest perhaps as much as $3 billion in taxpayer funds to build a bridge when a private investor is willing to build one at his own expense?

The Ambassador vs. the "DRIC"

For 75 years, the Ambassador Bridge has connected Michigan and Canada, serving as the ideal travel route for private and commercial vehicles. Fifty years after its construction in 1929, the Moroun family purchased the Ambassador Bridge and has operated it ever since. About one-fourth of the commerce between the United States and Canada crosses the Ambassador Bridge.  
Since 9/11 the Ambassador Bridge has become the target of controversy. State government has argued that the Bridge is vulnerable to terrorist activity, and that the structure is outdated and insufficient for future transportation needs.
State government officials argue that the International crossing should be publicly owned and managed. That's why they're studying whether to build a bridge with your tax dollars. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is calling it the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). MDOT has already poured millions of taxpayer dollars into a study in an effort to justify public expenditure for a new bridge even though the Ambassador is only at 58% of capacity and Moroun is planning to build a "twin" bridge next to the current one.
Owner Matty Moroun and his company have started the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project. Their plan is to build a six-lane bridge, running just west of the current bridge. This new span would connect directly to the existing Ambassador's plazas and could become a replacement for the current bridge. All this will be done without upsetting traffic flow.

Studies show that the twin Ambassador Bridge would cost Moroun less than $1 billion. On the other hand, the DRIC could cost up to $3 billion and be paid for by you, the taxpayers of Michigan with help from the federal government. 

  • Here are some facts about the Ambassador Bridge:

  • It exceeds federal and state requirements for safety and security

  • Is "over-engineered" as it was built to handle train traffic

  • Has 24/7 video surveillance

  • Is inspected every year

  • Has had zero security incidents or shutdowns since 9/11

  • Is 100% privately funded

On the other hand, the DRIC site:

  • Would require up to $3 billion in state and federal tax dollars to finish all the studies, reconfigure the existing highway connections and infrastructure, condemn and purchse all the additional land, and erect a new bridge and new inspection stations.

  • Would see a significant increase in tolls

  • Is considered by both the EPA and the DEQ as "contaminated"

  • Contains harmful chemical compunds which could damage the environment

  • Is on top of several former salt mines where the ground may be unstable

MDOT's past bridge projects have shown poor design, flawed traffic projections, traffic jams and delays, and most importantly, taxpayers pay for it all.
Considering Michigan's current economic state, perhaps we shouldn't be investing billions of taxpayers' dollars in a project that a private company is willing to undertake at their own expense, especially when MDOT is saying we are underfunded for maintenance alone by as much as $1 billion.

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