Ambassador Bridge

Four years ago, it looked as if efforts to build a badly needed new bridge over the Detroit River were doomed to failure.

Matty Moroun, the now 87-year-old owner of the Ambassador Bridge, had managed to corrupt the Legislature through that form of legalized bribery known as campaign contributions.

He poured hundreds of thousands into the campaigns and causes of influential legislators, most notably former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

In fact, as Jim Blanchard, the former governor and ambassador to Canada told me, Bishop broke his promise to the people. He had promised to allow a vote in the state Senate on whether or not to allow a partnership with Canada to build the bridge.

This is a bridge, by the way, that just about every business and corporate leader in Michigan agrees we need to stay competitive.

Rick Snyder wants the U.S., not Canada, to pay for the Ambassador Bridge's customs plaza.
Michigan.gov

Gov. Rick Snyder told a business conference in Grand Rapids today that he expects the new international border crossing between Detroit and Ontario will provide a boost to the entire Michigan economy.

The bridge will be largely financed by the Canadian government, which agreed to pay for both sides of the bridge after the Michigan Legislature balked at funding the project. However, Snyder believes it to be the United States' responsibility to to pick up the costs of the U.S. customs plaza. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT -- A federal judge won't stop the U.S. Coast Guard from issuing a permit for a new bridge between Canada and Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., disagreed with private owners of the existing bridge, who claim a permit would cause "irreparable harm." It was a defeat Friday for Manuel "Matty" Moroun, whose family controls the Ambassador Bridge and wants to build its own second span.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Canada are trying to build a bridge over the Detroit River that would compete with the Ambassador Bridge. Canada is willing to pay for it and be reimbursed through tolls.

The Moroun family says the bridge could take up to 75% of traffic from the Ambassador Bridge.

So whatever happened to the New International Trade Crossing Bridge?

For years, an epic battle raged between those who knew we needed a new bridge across the Detroit River, and Matty Moroun, the 86-year-old man who owned the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge, the only game in town.

Moroun held up a new bridge for years, mostly by buying off Michigan legislators with bribes thinly described as campaign contributions, but that ended when Rick Snyder became governor.

Snyder found a way to bypass the lawmakers and conclude an agreement with Canada. That was almost two years ago, however, and ground has yet to be broken.

So what’s happening?

This time the culprit is not Matty Moroun, but, bizarrely, Barack Obama.

President Obama has been supportive of a new bridge. There was no difficulty gaining a presidential permit to build it. Money was not a problem, because our friends the Canadians are paying for almost all of it. They are advancing Michigan’s share of more than half a billion dollars, which we don’t have to pay back until the bridge is up and tolls are being collected.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The owner of the Ambassador Bridge is asking a judge to stop the U.S. Coast Guard from giving a permit for a new bridge connecting Michigan and Ontario.

Lawyers for the bridge company say it has an exclusive right to provide a bridge between the U.S. and Canada. It wants to build its own second span. The Detroit Free Press says a federal judge in Washington could hold a hearing early in April.

http://buildthedricnow.com/

Canadian officials are saying the proposed U.S.-Canadian bridge is not getting the U.S. funding it needs.

That could mean the New International Trade Crossing – the second bridge between Detroit and Windsor – could be postponed beyond the project’s 2020 completion date.

As Jim Lynch of the Detroit News reports, Canadian officials are offering up $630 million to build the new bridge.

The only thing the Canadians aren’t paying for is the customs office that would need to go on the U.S. side of the bridge.

I heard something startling last weekend from a woman with whom I used to work. “So Matty Moroun is going to build a second bridge after all!” she said.

To which I said a very profound “huh?” 

Oh yes, she said. She had read it in the newspaper. She said the Canadians had given him the go-ahead to build a second span, next to his Ambassador Bridge.

That didn’t make any sense to me, since I have talked to Canadian officials and diplomats about this for years. Suddenly, I realized what she was talking about.

There was a story in the papers on Valentine’s Day saying that Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company had gotten environmental clearance from Canada for a new span.

Actually, it quoted officials of the bridge company as saying this. However, there were two problems with most versions of that story.

The minor problem is that what Moroun claimed – a claim reflected in the headlines – wasn’t quite true.

The Windsor Port Authority and Transport Canada did indeed issue a decision saying that a replacement for the Ambassador Bridge was unlikely to do serious damage to the environment.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A Canadian official says his government plans to start buying land in Detroit for the U.S. portion of a new bridge linking the nations. It's a way to bypass opponents of the project and overcome the U.S. government's failure to allocate the money.

Outgoing Canadian Consul General Roy Norton tells the Detroit Free Press that the project is too important to delay.

Canada is paying most of the project's $2 billion-plus cost on both the Windsor, Ontario, and the Detroit sides of the river, recouping costs from future tolls.

http://buildthedricnow.com/

  

Remember all the political wrangling over the "New International Trade Crossing"? After that feverish campaign in the fall of 2012, where Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun failed to convince Michigan voters to give him a monopoly of the Detroit River crossing between Detroit and Canada, and after Canada agreed that it would indeed pay the lion's share of the $2.1 billion it'll cost to complete the bridge – after all of that – why has there been no more movement toward getting the new bridge built? Michigan Radio's political commentator Jack Lessenberry explains what's up. *Listen to the audio above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says a new bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada is being delayed partly because Washington doesn't seem to want to pay for a customs plaza on the American side.

Snyder tells the Detroit Free Press it's a "difficult-to-understand attitude." He chalks it up to other similar logjams in Washington but says there's still time to resolve the issue.

Canada has agreed to pay for most of the Detroit-Ontario bridge and then get repaid through tolls. But the U.S. government needs to be responsible for a $250 million inspection plaza.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan Lottery players have more than visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads this holiday season.

A potentially record breaking lottery jackpot is on the line tonight.   

The Mega Millions jackpot stands at $586 million. The all-time biggest lottery jackpot in the U.S. reached $656 million back in March of this year. Depending on final day sales, the Mega Millions jackpot could break the record tonight.

We’ve been thinking a lot about Detroit lately, for obvious reasons. Opinions differ, but pretty much everyone agrees on this: There are too few jobs and not enough money. Unemployment is high, the tax base is low. The city is officially bankrupt.

Yet there’s a project out there that should be a huge shot in the arm: The New International Trade Crossing Bridge. Estimates are that it will create at least 10,000 good paying jobs that will last four to five years. Ripple effects from those jobs will create thousands of others, some of which will be permanent. 

Canada is going to pay nearly all the costs of the bridge and all Michigan’s costs, pumping nearly four billion dollars into the economy. Exactly what the doctor ordered. So … what’s holding things up?

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Affirmations, an LGBT community center in Ferndale, has launched an alternative high school program with the Michigan Educational Partnership.

The program is geared toward students who have dropped out or are having a hard time in school, often due to harassment or bullying that is common for LGBT students.

Alternative high schools often carry a bit of a stigma.

Wavecrest Career Academy in Holland is no different.

Shelby Danielson is a senior at the school. "People think it's a bad school and it's really not," she says.

"There are so many great kids and they have so much potential, they just need that extra push from teachers and they might not get that at other schools."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An alternative school for at-risk kids in Battle Creek has found a new school district to oversee its academic program. .

Marshall Schools was the only district to apply to take over the academic program at the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy.

The alternative school program has operated for 14 years at the National Guard base in Battle Creek. The academy serves about 250 at-risk young people from across Michigan annually.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On Saturdays, Michigan Radio's Rina Miller checks in with our political analyst, Jack Lessenberry.  

This week, Lessenberry attended the Mackinac Policy Conference.

He says one of the takeaways this year is that the business community is happy with the state's direction.

"[They are] encouraged by the direction in which Michigan is going. They're very happy in general with Governor Synder, but there's a lot of concern about education," Lessenberry said.

Education was discussed more this year than in past years.  

Mark Schauer's run

http://buildthedricnow.com

Get ready Michigan – Canada is taking serious steps toward building a new bridge over the Detroit River, according to Dave Battagello from The Windsor Star:

The Canadian government has dedicated $25 million in its recent budget to start buying property in Delray for the new Detroit River bridge, while U.S. federal administrators debate the size and scope of the customs plaza, Canada’s Consul General Roy Norton said Wednesday.

If you aren’t familiar with the bridge project (known as the Detroit River International Crossing or the New International Trade Crossing) you certainly saw the commercials for Proposal 6 last November.

Proposal 6 was an attempt by Ambassador Bridge owner, Matty Moroun, to require voter approval for any bridge or tunnel between Michigan and Canada.

Proposal 6 did not pass and the new bridge is moving closer to reality.

A truck and other traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge.
Casino Jones / Flickr | Creative Commons

The Michigan Department of Transportation may remove a ban which prohibits truckers from carrying hazardous materials across the Ambassador Bridge.

Rob Morosi, an MDOT spokesman, says most of the items currently considered hazardous are just normal household materials.

With approval by the U.S. State Department, the plan to build a new, second bridge from Detroit to Windsor is moving forward. On today's show we take a look at the community in Detroit where the bridge will be built.

Just what will happen to the Delray neighborhood? And, then, we'll speak with a woman who has hiked the shorelines of all five Great Lakes.

But first to the state Capitol, where we saw a flurry of voting last week as lawmakers put together the next state budget.

It's expected to total about $48 billion.


The Republican-controlled state House approved spending for schools and colleges as well as a budget to fund the rest of state government.

The state Senate, also controlled by Republicans, approved about half of its budget plan with more votes scheduled this week.

Now, these votes set the stage for negotiations between the two Chambers in May because the goal in Lansing is to get the budget complete by June 1st.

Joining us are Chad Livengood, Lansing reporter for The Detroit News, and Chris Gautz, Capitol Correspondent for Crain’s Detroit Business.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The New International Trade Crossing has taken a big step closer to becoming reality. 

Recently, the U.S. State Department approved the project which will allow the creation of a second span across the Detroit River from Detroit to Windsor.

The residents, business owners, and civic leaders in the Delray neighborhood have been watching the progress of this project very closely.

Delray is where the bridge would be built - where traffic would flow - and where life will change.

Will the bridge bring good things to the southwest Detroit neighborhood and its residents, or will their quality of life be sacrificed for the economic benefits to Michigan?

Simone Sagovac is with the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition. Today, she told us how the new bridge will affect Delray residents and whether the two can exist.

Listen to the full interview above.

Three years ago, it seemed possible we’d never see a new bridge over the Detroit River. True, most businesses and corporations felt that one would definitely be needed.

The existing Ambassador Bridge is more than 80 years old, but carries 25 percent of all the trade between the United States and Canada -- more than $3 billion a week.

There is no backup for it, and even a temporary shutdown would wreak havoc on the economies of Michigan and Ontario.

But thanks to lavish campaign contributions, Manuel J. “Matty Moroun” had been able to effectively buy off the Michigan legislature, to the point where they would not even allow a vote on the issue.

Once, when I asked U.S. Senator Carl Levin if anything surprised him about Detroit, his answer was “the incredible power of Moroun.” Yet last Friday, there stood a triumphant Governor Rick Snyder with an array of Canadian officials.

Secretary of State John Kerry had just issued a presidential permit allowing a New International Trade Crossing Bridge to be built.

http://buildthedricnow.com/

Backers of a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor are expected to announce that the project has cleared one of the final hurdles later today.

The Windsor Star reports that Governor Snyder and other supporters of the Detroit River International Crossing will announce that the bridge project has finally received a permit from the U.S. Department of State. .

A forty year old federal law gives the State Department the authority to approve international bridges.

The permit is seen as a key step in the 2 billion dollar bridge project.  

Last year was a major milestone in the epic battle to get a new and badly needed bridge across the Detroit River. Frustrated by the Michigan Legislature’s unwillingness to even vote on the issue, Governor Rick Snyder found a legal way to bypass the lawmakers.

Snyder found a clause in the Michigan Constitution that allowed him to conclude an “interlocal” agreement with the government of Canada. This didn’t make Matty Moroun, the 85 year-old owner of the 84 year old Ambassador Bridge, happy.

Moroun then spent close to $40 million attempting to get Michigan voters to ratify a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have essentially given him monopoly control of our nation’s most important border crossing for all time.

We haven’t heard much about the great Detroit River bridge debate since the November election. That’s when Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s attempt to amend the state constitution to preserve his monopoly.

Earlier last year, Governor Rick Snyder bypassed the Michigan legislature and used a little-known  provision of the constitution to sign an agreement with Canada allowing for a New International Trade Crossing to be built south of the existing bridge.

The Ambassador Bridge is currently the only way heavy freight can be moved across the river, at least between Port Huron and Buffalo. The governor and virtually all business interests agree that a backup is essential.

So why aren’t shovels in the ground? Well, the short answer is bureaucracy.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A judge in Detroit has ordered the owners of the Ambassador Bridge to reimburse the state Department of Transportation $4.5 million for work done on a freeway-to-bridge project.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards made the order last week.

Edwards told bridge owner Manuel Moroun in 2010 to rebuild a ramp. Moroun was jailed earlier this year when the work was not done.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is returning to Canada to discuss plans for a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, nearly six months after signing the deal to build the Canadian-financed span.

The Republican governor will talk in Toronto on Monday about the New International Trade Crossing. He's there to speak at a conference on public-private partnerships and announce a pact with Great Lakes governors on a virtual Canada trade office.

This has been a bad year for Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge. In January, he was thrown in jail overnight, for failing to comply with court orders to live up to an agreement he’d signed to finish a road project near his bridge.

The Ambassador Bridge
user Patr1ck / Wikimedia Commons

A week after the election, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is switching gears from fighting a ballot proposal that sought to block a new international bridge, to taking further steps to build the New International Trade Crossing bridge.

Governor Snyder's office and top Canadian officials are getting more information out about the proposed bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

After spending around $40 million to try to block a new international bridge downriver of their Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family issued a statement that said in part "like any family business, we would do it again - and will in different ways - to defend economic freedom and limited government." Now the new bridge moves forward.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A giant tour bus outside the Grand Rapids hotel where Governor Rick Snyder spoke Monday says it all – vote yes on prop one and no on the rest.

Snyder, some business leaders and even an emergency financial manager will be on the bus for the four day tour. They’ll stop in towns throughout the state to discuss the proposals.

Governor Snyder says he’s trying to better inform voters about their options.

Pages