The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 19, 2013


By The Building Tradesman

New Detroit River bridge gets federal OK

The U.S. Department of State on April 12 issued a Presidential Permit for the construction of a new bridge over the Detroit River, dubbed the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). The project could break ground some time in 2014 and is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs and secure international commerce with Canada, Michigan’s largest trading partner, for decades to come.

“This is all about jobs for today and tomorrow,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “This is a major construction project that is expected to create 12,000 direct jobs and as many as 31,000 indirect jobs. Getting Michigan-made products to more markets faster will enhance our economic competitiveness in the future and help our state create more jobs.”

The new Detroit-Windsor bridge, which would be built about a mile down river from the Ambassador Bridge, is supported by more than 175 business, labor, and community leaders and organizations representing more than 10,000 businesses and hundreds of thousands of Michigan employees. The bridge is expected to have a price tag of about $2.1 billion, split between the U.S. and Canada. Michigan’s $550-million share would be picked by the Canadian government, to be repaid by vehicle tolls.

The State Department said the permit is in “the national interest.” Indeed, one of the main arguments for building a new span is that the existing 84-year-old Ambassador Bridge – the nation’s busiest border crossing – is privately owned and operated.

“This permit contributes to ensuring that our border infrastructure supports increased competitiveness, job creation, and broad-based prosperity in the United States and Canada. The NITC will help to meet future capacity requirements in a critical travel corridor, promote cross-border trade and commerce, and advance our vital bilateral relationship with Canada,” the State Department said.

The project has received all of the necessary environmental clearances in the U.S. and Canada. The project now awaits the final approval for the U.S. Coast Guard permit as well as land acquisition.

But the legal hurdles haven’t all been cleared. Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s latest lawsuit protesting a new span centers around his contention that a rival bridge is unnecessary, and that a 1921 international agreement gives the owner of the bridge (Maroun) the only franchise to operate a bridge.

One-quarter of all U.S.-Canada commerce flows over the Ambassador Bridge. According to the NITC coalition,  in 2011, trade between Michigan and Canada totaled $70.2 billion – more than 11 percent of the total U.S./Canada trade. Additionally, more than 8,000 trucks per day cross the Detroit-Windsor border. According to the Public Border Operators Association (PBOA), truck traffic is projected to increase 128 percent over the next 30 years.