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Ambassador Bridge

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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?

44 percent of Michigan 3rd graders tested proficient in English and Language Arts. The scores for African-American, latino and low-income students were even worse.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
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.

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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.

You might say there was more than usual going on last night. There was the last game of the National League baseball playoffs, in which San Francisco completed a dramatic comeback to take on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Meanwhile, on another channel, the Detroit Lions were blowing their Monday night football game.

And Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were locked in the final debate of the closest presidential campaign in years, this time arguing about foreign policy and the state of the world.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan curriculum has disappointing results

"An effort to improve Michigan’s high school academic standards appears to be having a disappointing result. The Michigan Merit Curriculum was implemented in Michigan high schools in 2006. Researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and the state of Michigan found that test scores improved only slightly for students  entering high school with strong academic skills.   But for those with weak skills, test scores fell and graduation rates declined," Steve Carmody reports.

Snyder says Prop 6 would cause court battle if passed

"Governor Rick Snyder is worried Proposal 6 on the November ballot would spark a lengthy court battle if it’s passed. The initiative would require a state-wide vote before any new international crossing could be built in the state. Governor Rick Snyder says his plan for a new international bridge in Detroit is not meant to put the existing Ambassador Bridge out of business. Current bridge owners say a new bridge is not necessary, and would be expensive for Michigan taxpayers. Canada has agreed to front the costs of the new bridge, and a number of studies have concluded there will be no new costs to state taxpayers," Jake Neher reports.

McCotter aids in court for campaign scandal

"Two men who worked for a Detroit-area congressman are returning to court to learn if they'll stand trial in a campaign scandal. Paul Seewald and Don Yowchuang are charged with conspiring to get then-Congressman Thaddeus McCotter on the 2012 ballot with bogus petitions. The judge says he'll make a decision on the matter today," the AP reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is focused on the Michigan ballot with two weeks to go before Election Day.

On Monday, Snyder appeared alongside Canadian consul general Roy Norton at a Canada-United States Business Association meeting town hall in Detroit.

Both men asked Michigan and Canadian business leaders to support the proposed New International Trade Crossing. And both urged a “no” vote on Proposal 6, which would require a statewide referendum on any new international crossings. He says he’s in “campaign mode.”

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."    

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Detroit Free Press reports that the United Auto Workers union - no friend to Governor Rick Snyder - is considering a deal with billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun - also no friend to the Governor.

The deal would involve Moroun helping the union pay for ads in support of Proposal 2, which would enshrine labor organizing rights in the state constitution.

Concept NITC Drawing
NITC

Mickey Blashfield, Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun's director of government relations and head of the Moroun-financed group "The People Should Decide" released a statement following a report from the Detroit Free Press on a possible deal between the UAW and Moroun.

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the Michigan ballot this fall would require a statewide vote before state money could be spent on any “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” could be built in Michigan. The amendment would require the vote even before any tax money could be spent planning an international crossing. This would effectively stop the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. The effort is funded by the family that owns the Ambassador bridge.

Michigan Radio

A report commissioned by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge says Gov. Rick  Snyder has not given voters enough information about the economic impact of a proposed new span over the Detroit River. 

The analysis by a Grand Rapids consulting firm says plans for the new bridge are not economically feasible.

"A CEO in the private sector making a multi-billion-dollar investment with concerns about the bottom line in shareholder return would put this proposal under a lot more scrutiny than it appears the governor has," says Patrick O'Keefe, CEO of O'Keefe and Associates.

As election day approaches, you’re likely to see a lot of ads critical of an agreement between Canada and Michigan regarding a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

[Ad Clip:] “It will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year.”

Whether Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of that bridge is at the heart of a fierce debate about the agreement.

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