A state Senate committee opened hearings yesterday on legislation that would start the process of building a new bridge connecting Detroit to Canada.
The new bridge would compete with the existing Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor-Ontario.
Governor Rick Snyder would like the Legislature to approve the initial stages of the bridge project by the end of the month.
Representatives of Governor Snyder’s administration and the Canadian government were on hand to insist the new bridge is an economic necessity that would not cost Michigan taxpayers any money.
Canada has committed to pay all the construction costs with repayment coming from tolls.
Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general to Michigan, says both Michigan and Canada would benefit from expanded border access.
“There are jobs in almost every county of Michigan that depend on companies being able to move things back and forth across the frontier with Canada,” said Norton.
The new bridge would compete with the existing Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are trying to stop the project.
Matthew Moroun’s family owns the Ambassador Bridge. Moroun will testify today before the state Senate Economic Development Committee.
“We intend to show the actual statistics," said Moroun. "You know, we’ve been in the bridge business for 30-some years, and you learn a lot about the bridge business from being in the bridge business, I can tell you.”
Moroun says the state and Canada cannot credibly guarantee taxpayers’ money is not at stake in going ahead with a new bridge.
Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is the governor’s lead negotiator to win legislative support of the bridge. He says a new border crossing in southeastern Michigan is critical to the economic future of the entire state.
“Our biggest customer is Canada," said Calley. "We sell more to Canada than anybody else. They buy more of our goods than anybody else, and so we need more access, better access to that market if Michigan is to be successful.”
Calley and the Snyder administration face skeptics in the Legislature.
Opponents of a new bridge say traffic studies show there’s no need for a new bridge. They also say the state should not be backing a public bridge to compete with a private business.
Many Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they remain skeptical the deal would be good for Michigan taxpayers or that a new bridge is necessary, and they say it will take more before they’ll cast a vote in favor of it.