New Windsor-Detroit bridge on Tuesday’s ballot

Nov 6, 2012 | News

The Ambassador Bridge connects Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, and carries 30 per cent of Canada’s trade with the US. COURTESY WIKI COMMONS

By Alex Fuller

Casting a ballot for the United States president is not the only decision Michigan voters will be making Tuesday.  The future of a new bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit is also on the ballot.

As described on the State of Michigan’s website, Proposal 6, if approved, “would require the approval of a majority of voters” before Michigan’s government can proceed with construction of the New International Trade Crossing.

The bridge would become another link for people making the busy crossing, along with the aging Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

“It’s Canada’s number one infrastructure priority,” Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada in Detroit, told Humber News.  Norton said that thousands of jobs in the region should not be dependent on a single bridge as old as the Ambassador.

The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that the Canadian government has offered to pay Michigan’s $550 million share of the new mega project’s total cost, which is expected to be somewhere around $4 billion.

Norton told Humber News that the Canadian government will assume all liability for the bridge, and the costs of construction and operation will be recouped in tolls.

Proposal 6 is being championed by Manuel Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

At this point, it is not clear if the mega project will cost the state of Michigan any money.

“The direct fiscal impact of Ballot Proposal 6 is contingent on whether or not it would prevent the state” from moving ahead with completion of the project, William Hamilton, a senior fiscal analyst in Michigan’s House of Representatives, said in a report.

Norma Coleman, chief of staff in the mayor of Windsor’s office, told Humber News that even if Proposal 6 is approved, it would not completely prevent the building of the new bridge, but would instead merely slow down the international agreement.

“We would encourage people in Michigan to vote ‘no’ on Proposal 6,” Coleman said.  “We don’t see any disadvantages to having that bridge.”

Coleman told Humber News that there are currently 17 stoplights “between the end of the 401 and the foot of the Ambassador Bridge,” and that a new bridge spanning the Detroit River would be much more easily approached.

Ambassador Bridge owner against second bridge

Bill Hooper, a business executive based in the GTA, told Humber News he often bypasses the Ambassador Bridge in favour of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, because “there’s always a lot of trucks on the bridge.”

Hooper said the new link has been “needed for a long time,” adding that “it would bring Windsor back to life.  Windsor took a big hit when the auto industry took a hit.”

“The owner of the Ambassador Bridge has a lot of pull, and he doesn’t want any competition.  They don’t mind waiting an extra hour for your money, because they’re going to get it.”

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is an alternative route for international travelers – but it is not large enough to accommodate large trucks. COURTESY WIKI COMMONS

Coleman said the Ambassador Bridge, which was built in 1929, would act co-operatively with a second bridge in order to maximize efficiency – and efficiency is key when 30 per cent of Canada’s trade with the United States passes between Windsor and Detroit (some 10,000 trucks per day, Coleman said).

A report issued by Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce said “a four hour delay at the Ambassador Bridge costs the Ontario economy approximately $7 million in lost production.”

A letter by Michigan’s Lt.-Gov. Brian Calley to newspaper The Morning Sun on Oct. 23 said that nearly 1,400 permanent jobs “will be created for the bridge’s operation” and that private investment generated by the project  is estimated to create 6,800 permanent direct and indirect jobs.

“We need the NITC so that the economic futures of Michigan and Canada can thrive,” Calley wrote in his letter.