Friday, October 7, 2011

Who Should Build the Next Bridge to Canada, and When?

The battle lines are being drawn in the ongoing debate about when, where and by whom the bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario should be built. The Snyder administration is pushing a bridge that would be built under the auspices of a state bridge authority. The Moroun family, which owns and operates the Ambassador bridge wants to build a second span with their own money, next to the current bridge.

A couple of observations: my understanding of an "authority", at least at the local level is one that has the power to undertake public activities; the ability to enter into contracts; the right to sue and be sued; and the ability to collect taxes and determine a budget. 

I got a post card in the mail today from "The Fund for Michigan Jobs", whoever they are, that said in bold letters, the bridge "WILL NOT cost Michigan taxpayers", and it will be paid for with "private not public funds." That does not square with statements in the Senate Fiscal agency's own analysis document. That analysis speaks extensively about public-private partnerships. It also states, "Any costs associated with the administration of eminent domain proceedings, professional fees, administrative costs, planning costs, or procurement costs related to a bridge project, or certain highway maintenance and repair costs, would be paid from the Department's existing State or Federal revenue."

Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the pencil box, but aren't the taxpayers also known as the "public?" And, where does "state and federal revenue" come from? Wouldn't that be the taxpayers?

Professor Gary Wolfram
Even if the current bill, as written insulates the taxpayers from any obligation, future legislatures, as Professor Gary Wolfram, from Hillsdale College points out, can change that and put taxpayers on the hook by a simple majority vote. And there is a precedent. They did it back in the 50's with another bridge...the Mackinac Bridge. Read about it here.

At the end of the day, would you rather "trust the government" or let a private owner take the risk to succeed or fail with his own money?

Senate Bill 410 could be up for a vote in the State Senate next week. Perhaps you should contact your state Senator and offer your opinion.


katrinalgasinger said...

How do they figure building a bridge will generate 25,000 Michigan jobs? (as claimed in "Fund for Michigan jobs" postcard)

Anonymous said...

The public employee unions on both sides of the border are the problem with their work rules and poor management. Capacity of the bridge is not an issue. Using bonded carriers which have their loads inspected off-site and then sealed has helped reduce the inspection problem and having an off-site inspection facility would also help alleviate the problem. But these solutions and others are fought by both the US and Canadian unions and to a certain extent management of the US INS and Treasury Depts.
The issue which is driving this whole nonesense is traffic on a road in Windsor called Huron Church St. which is the main connection between the 401 expressway and the bridge a distance of only about 6 miles. Huron Church St. is an at-grade local road and the City of Windsor has been pushing for years to get a new bridge at a new location to get the traffic off of Church St. Upgrading this road would be a lot less expensive than an new crossing location.
MDOT has spent millions improving the plaza and connection from the bridge to I-75 which will all be wasted if a crossing is built on a new location. There is no doubt that MDOT will have to spend millions on a new crossing, funds which could go to repairing Michigan roads and generating the same number of jobs as a new crossing and bringing many more benefits in turn of accident reduction and ease of travel to all of Michigan.

Anonymous said...

Whether the bridge is a good idea or not, the development of our public infrastructure should not be subject to, or based on, any private company's return on investment analysis. If this had been the case in the past, there would be no such thing as a "country" road. I'm all for small government, but infrastructure is one of the FEW things I think our local, state and federal governments should play a role in.

Too many short term decisions in Lansing have left Michigan's infrastructure in a sad state of disrepair and I'm sure has had an adverse impact on our economy.

Anonymous said...

A new Twin span of the current bridge will not solve traffic issues in Windsor. At the current time, the big three and other companies have to go thru up to 16 traffic lights just to get to hwy 401 thus causing them to spend more money and time to get their products to markets in Canada & the USA. The New Bridge solves these problems with a new road similar to M5 in Michigan that has fewer lights between freeways. Mr. Maroun is just a selfish and greedy businessman who will buy off any politician and or the public with his false TV ads just to get his way.