You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

Detroit-to-Windsor bridge opponents 'have an issue with free enterprise,' Rick Snyder argues

By Nathan Bomey


Gov. Rick Snyder — speaking to reporters at a press conference on the porch of Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference — holds up a copy of Lawrence Rubin's "Bridging the Straits: The Story of Mighty Mac." The book tells the story of how Mackinac Bridge opponents said it would destroy jobs and lose money, which, Snyder said, parallels the claims of opponents of a new bridge crossing the Detroit River.

Nathan Bomey |

MACKINAC ISLAND—The battle over a proposed second bridge spanning the Detroit River is turning into an argument about which side is more pro-capitalism.

State Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, today introduced legislation that would allow the state to authorize a public-private partnership to build a bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor.


Lansing lawmakers are debating the prospect of a second bridge spanning the Detroit River and connecting the Motor City with Windsor.

Photo courtesy of VideoVik via Flickr

And Gov. Rick Snyder held a press conference at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference to praise the proposal and lobby for support.

But the family that operates the existing private crossing over the river, the Ambassador Bridge, has waged a TV advertising campaign asserting that a new bridge would lose billions for the state.

So far, some Republicans in the state Legislature have blocked the bridge, saying they're concerned it won't be financially sustainable and that the government shouldn't create a bridge to compete with a privately owned span.

But today, Snyder, who has support from legislative Democrats for the project, said the new bridge was not a government project.

"It will be built by the private sector with private financing and run by a private party," he said.

He went further.

"If you don’t believe in supporting this legislation, you’re taking a position in some ways to say you have an issue with free enterprise and free competition," he said. "That’s what this is all about is creating an environment where free competition and the free market can work."

Snyder said the success of the Mackinac Bridge proves that the government can be the catalyst in the creation of successful public infrastructure.

Snyder said that when the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's lower and upper pensinsulas, was first proposed, it drew intense skepticism from critics who said it "would destroy jobs," that there "wasn't enough demand for the bridge" and "the tolls wouldn't support it."

That rhetoric is similar to criticism facing the proposed public-private partnership that would be authorized to construct a new bridge over the Detroit River.

Snyder, speaking this afternoon at a press conference on the porch of the Grand Hotel, stood alongside bridge supporters from major Michigan companies, including the CEOs of DTE Energy and Meijer Inc., labor leaders and political allies.

A new bridge would be located a few miles from the existing Ambassador Bridge, which is owned and operated by Manuel "Matty" Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co.

The Moroun family has waged a TV advertising campaign against the bridge, hired a lobbyist to oppose it and donated money to politicians from both parties to curry support.

All sides agree that a new bridge is necessary to meet projected growth in trucking traffic over the next several decades.

The Canadian government has promised to pay up to $550 million to cover Michigan's costs for building the bridge — and Snyder convinced the U.S. government to allow Canada's dollars to count as Michigan's matching funds for U.S. roadwork dollars. Canada's portion will be repaid using toll money.

Snyder said the success of the Mackinac Bridge shows that the New International Trade Crossing bridge, as it's called, can be successful.

"The criticism you’re hearing — we’ve been to this movie before and it turned out good," Snyder said. "As you look behind you and see this beautiful bridge, it has been a wide-scale success for our state. Let’s do it again in a constructive, positive way. It’s a great opportunity to work together. As the legislation shows, we will not take on any debt for our citizens. We will not do this at the expense of our citizens. This is truly a win-win for all of us, for our partners in Canada, for the citizens of Michigan and for our businesses. So I’m fired up. It’s time to build the bridge."

Snyder argued that a second bridge would bolster Michigan's growing international trade relationship with Canada. Of Michigan's $44 billion in exports in 2010, about 49 percent went to Canada — and that figure was up 36 percent from 2009, Snyder said.

"I'm not anti-ambassador bridge , I’m pro-international trade. Our goal here is to have all our crossings thrive and flourish. There’s a lot of misinformation on this topic," he said.

So far, legislative Republicans have blocked the new bridge — so Snyder today asked business leaders at the conference to personally lobby lawmakers to support the bridge, which would create about 10,000 jobs during its construction.

Supporters of the bridge include General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Business Leaders for Michigan, the AFL-CIO and the Michigan Manufacturers Association.

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce is expected to endorse the bridge after a board meeting this week, as well.

A Canadian official told last week that U.S. Rep. John Dingell's 15th congressional district, which includes Ann Arbor, did about $6 billion in exports to Canada in 2009.

The governor's office issued a news release today saying that companies based in Ann Arbor itself accounted for about $900 million in exports in 2009.

"It’s not just a Detroit issue," Snyder told reporters. "It's a Michigan issue."

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Lac Court Orilles

Fri, Jun 3, 2011 : 1:03 a.m.

Uncover every stone and under one of them you will find a little lump of gold for Slick Rick Snyder the Nerd. This opportunist doesn't do anything without first thinking how he will personally benefit.

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

I'm in the transportation industry and loath crossing Marouns bridge. The compromise here is for the Canadian, Ontario, Michigan and US transportation authorities to issue the permits for a new bridge to new shell corporation and the corporation then raises money for the bridge via an initial stock offering. The obvious stock purchasers would be the transportation companies along with every manufacturing company and importer and exporter who believes that competition for crossing time and toll rates as a result of a new bridge would reduce their costs. Maroun owns controlling interests in the following: Central Transport International, an LTL trucking carrier. Moroun also has a controlling stake in Universal Truckload Services Inc., which is in itself a holding company for several over-the-road truck lines (Universal Am-Can Ltd., Mason Dixon Lines, Economy Transport, etc.) The sentiment in the industry is that if you want your cargo to get over the bridge quickly, then you hire one of Maroun's companies to transport it even though you'll pay higher cartage rates and insurance claims. A new public company whose shareholders consisted primarily of manufacturers, transportation companies and importers/exporters would design a bridge that would be precisely what would serve them best and would be far better qualified than any state agency to hire the right architecture, engineering and construction companies to complete their project. I am surprised that Snyder, being the venture capitalist could not come up with this solution himself. This is no different than the FCC auctioning off airwave spectrum to cellphone companies who then build out the infrastructure and charge consumers a fee to use it.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

"It will be built by the private sector with private financing and run by a private party," he said. He went further. "If you don't believe in supporting this legislation, you're taking a position in some ways to say you have an issue with free enterprise and free competition," he said. "That's what this is all about is creating an environment where free competition and the free market can work." Gotta love Slick Rick. The bridge may or may not be necessary. I am no expert. But can someone please tell me how receiving 500 million from a foreign country that will be paid back to them by public tolls and using 500 million in US Government matching funds is 'private' financing? I get that a private company will build it and run it (the US or Michigan Gov't doesn't build anything - it is contracted out). What I don't get is when the government pays a private company to do something that it feels it needs it is called capitalism anf free enterprise, but if the government were to directly hire people run the bridge it would be decried as Socialism? Hypocrites all!


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

Lets see: 1) The current bridge crossing has the highest rates of any crossing in the country into Canada. They are making huge profit selling gas considering the price isn't particularly lower and there is no tax on it. God forbid they will have to lower rates to the norm to compete. 2) Both sides say a new bridge is needed. Why fight this version? The family won't own the second bridge. Pass the bill. With the Democrats on board this should be a no brainer.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

Source for th 500 jobs was a supporter of the bridge project on Frank Beckmans show on WJR this morning.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

The State of Mich will be on the hook for new roads to connect the bridge to the freeway. The $1 billion we are relying on from federal gavernment is not new money, but money we would have gotten to fix raods elsewhere. Now those projects will not be worked on. Engineering studies claim only 500 workers max, will be working on the bridge at one time, for the 3 years. So the JOBS issue is also bogous. Where is the full disclouser we need to determine if this is a solid issue? AA News do you actually care about the financials of this project? I am going to assume no since we never see anything on the issue of money surrounding this project, you do not care.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

I guess you have been reading the family PR. Try actually looking at the numbers from independent sources next time. The new jobs is a moving target, but, your other numbers are pure fiction.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

I say that "A new bridge would be located a few miles from the existing Ambassador Bridge, which is owned and operated by Manuel "Matty" Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co". Is in fact he same thing as a "Monopoly". That bridge is a piece of ........ when is the last time they spent a dime on it? It is a embarrassment to the State of Michigan and The Country. How did it ever come about hat he owns this Bridge? No wonder he is so filthy RICH, he has been doling the public long enough, Build a NEW Bridge! Please wake up I'm a pure capitalist and the current situation is not CAPITALISM!

John of Saline

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

The Canadians don't want another bridge at the present location for very sound traffic and road-connection reasons; that should end the Moroun bridge plan right there in a normal world. (The new bridge would connect directly to the 401 in Canada, not dump trucks out into downtown Windsor as the present one does. Supposedly, the only stoplights between the Mexican border and Toronto are the ones on the roads from the bridge to the 401; the rest of the route is freeways!)


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

This is a situation where the press would do a service by explaining exactly what the issues are: Do we need legislation because this is an international bridge and it is against current law to build a private bridge? Or do we need legislation because it is presently against the law to go into a private-public partnership with Canada? Why is a law needed for Canada to finance part of the bridge and the American structures that are needed? Or is there some other reason why a new law is needed. Perhaps this is just a ploy to get Federal financing? Clarification, please.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Can we save our schools first?


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

Give me a break. Really?


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

I'm already cynical. If we don't build this bridge( the government) i'm afraid i'll be lost forever.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

Is another bridge really needed? Is there enough traffic on the current bridge to warrant another bridge? This seems like a case of "build it and they will come." Sounds risky for these times.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

You haven't crossed over during the day lately have you.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

This is all fine and dandy Ricky... but how many of your business "cronies" will get rich in the process? With the new business tax cuts, I am guessing a lot of money will be made by all.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

You people do not seem to understand that this is an INTERNATIONAL crossing. It is a travesty that the Ambassador Bridge is a FOR PROFIT model. I have no problem if this costs the state money every year. If profit were the reason to build infrastructure like bridges and roads, let me know how profitable roads, highways and even the Stadium bridge are. Before those who scream about gas taxes paying for roads, the facts remain that only 50% of road maintenance is covered by that tax. This is building another road into Canada. Why is this even open to debate. It needs to be built (admitted by Mourons because they say they will build a second span), it is wanted by business and labor, and is important in keeping a border crossing open if something were to ever happen to the current bridge. This project could have been started already if not for republicans in the pocket of the Morouns.


Sat, Jun 4, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

You can count on Mouron as a businessman? Really? How about learning more about this guy who has owned the Michigan Central Train Depot, which HE and HE alone has owned since 1996. He has done ZERO, NOTHING, NADA in those 15 years to improve it. This is what this vulture does. Remember that Mouron owns trucking companies. he keeps trucking rates high because he knows he makes the money either way. HE and HE ALONE decides what the price will be to cross his bridge. It puts those who use other trucking companies at a competitive disadvantage. It would be like the Metro Airport being privately owned by Delta Airlines and they decide on what runway fees will be. Mouron already has artificially high rates on the bridge for Canadians, and for trucking. Is the Mouron family afraid off competition? Why? If his bridge is in such good shape and the best spot for it to be (which nobody believes), then nobody will use the other bridge. Could it be that he knows his bridge is not convenient for most truck traffic (where he makes the money) and not very efficient after 60 years of ownership?

Will Warner

Fri, Jun 3, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

In sixty years Maroun has not decided to close the bridge or charge 10000000000000000000000000 per car. Why? Because he is a businessman and we can DEPEND on his greed. Businessmen move heaven and earth to keep their revenue streams streaming. I would be more worried about a capricious closing of the bridge by government, possibly in reaction to some populist nonsense. I have way, way, way, way, way, way, way more influence over a private business than I do over the government. With the goverment, I have to get a majority of people to agree with me. With a business, I just pay what they are asking, and I am on my way. Of course, I would feel better with an additional span, owned by somebody else.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

Will, I'll explain it to you in simnple terms One bridge connects the UNITED STATES with CANADA (a different country) Lets say moron owner decides to close HIS bridge tomorrow because it is not profitable. Or say he decides the new toll is $10000000000000000000000000 per car. I would prefer the INTERNATIONAL border be owned and operated by the federal government. A management company can be hired to do the work, but the actual structure should be public The other connects one part of a state with another, which should be owned and operated by the STATE. I do not believe in the model some states have instituted in selling their roads to the highest bidder. It takes away the voters right to decide how their assets are used.

Will Warner

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

"It is a travesty that the Ambassador Bridge is a FOR PROFIT model." Why? The private Ambassador Bridge and the public Mackinaw Bridge differ in no important way. Neither bridge makes money for the state. Neither costs the state money. And both serve the state and its citizens the way all bridges do: we get to drive over them to get to where we are going.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

Opposing a government funded bridge to compete with a privately owed bridge means people, 'have an issue with free enterprise.' To paraphrase a quote from the movie Princess Bride, "I don't think that word means what you think it does."


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 11:04 a.m.

If the state and its taxpayers will NEVER be on the hook for ANY COSTS EVER, and regulations ensure the bridge is built properly AND maintained properly, why be against it? That's IF.

Will Warner

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

What a confusing situation. I accept that another bridge is needed. I am very pro-competition and very pro-free-enterprise, so if other capitalists want to put up other bridges, I'm all for it. But I don't know how you demonstrate your free-enterprise cred by asking the government to go into competition with private businesses. If a second bridge will foster trade and for some reason won't get built without government help, fine. Just don't claim it as an act of free-enterprise.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 10:47 a.m.

Tell the Morouns to stop throwing roadblocks in the way of much-needed progress. Michiganders don't want the hyperbole, misleading claims, fact-twisting and lies that Moroun's P.R. people are putting out. Let's build The People's Bridge and start bringing jobs and business into Michigan.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 10:42 a.m.

The only thing I have against free enterprise, is that it's a myth.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 10:27 a.m.

The Supreme Court resolved this issue 170 odd years ago with the Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge decision. A case where Chief Justice Roger Taney made a very compelling argument that societal needs sometimes take precedence over any perceived private enterprises profit motives, especially when the profit motive hinders growth. Of course, USSC decisions are mere will-o'-the-wisps in the modern era - they count for nothing if they are beneficial to society at large.

Carl Ebach

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 2:28 a.m.

Just about the only thing I agree with Snyder on.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 1:50 a.m.

MDOT lied on it's bridge assessments. . As reported last October - Their own internal memos state they "pump up the modeling numbers" and that the bridge could "never cover the costs" - Search out the DRIC and those quotes. Two bridges would guarantee that each fail - as neither would survive on diluted tolls. Lastly - any construction estimate should be re-analyzed. The BIg Dig in Boston was advertised as a 4 billion dollar project -- Final price - 14 Billion. Come on! That is government at work for you.


Fri, Jun 3, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

If a private company wants to build a second crossing - that is fine. Leave the taxpayer out it 100%. There are many arguments for the second bridge. Let a private entity compete with Mouron - that will keep tolls low an gates staffed properly.

Mike Soto

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:46 a.m.

would it matter if there are cost over runs if the legislation says that the private bidder and canada would hold the liability, not michigan

Dr. Rockso

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 1:15 a.m.

I don't care who builds this bridge or who owns it but I find it funny that Rick thinks 2 bil from the feds and 550 mil from the Canadian government makes this a private project. Of course its going to be built by private contractors like every other publicly funded project.

Mike Soto

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:44 a.m.

your facts are a bit twisted the 550million pays for our half of the bridge, plaza and free way connectors. $ 2 billion is the amount leveraged from the feds to fix our roads and bridge all over the state. Build the NITC Now


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

Tell us more about the select Republicans who are apparently in Mr. Maroun's pocket.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

Unbelievable that this one rich family can block something that is good for the whole state.

Will Warner

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

"How will they be 'sacrificed'?" Their reward for building and operating the bridge would be – in a sense – confiscated. "They will just have to face more competition, that's free enterprise, right?" Not if the competitor is aided by the government. "And yes, sometimes a few have to "sacrifice" for the public good…" Sacrifice, or "be sacrificed?" We do recognize that individuals have rights that must be respected no matter how large a majority would benefit from vacating them? As a general principle, I mean.


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 11:37 a.m.

How will they be "sacrificed"? They will just have to face more competition, that's free enterprise, right? They have no right to be the only ones benefiting. And yes, sometimes a few have to "sacrifice" for the public good or to level the playing field.

Will Warner

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 11:19 a.m.

You're not arguing that individuals can be sacrificed for the good of the majority, are you?

David Briegel

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 12:14 a.m.

OK Rick. No loan guaruntees, no tax subsidies, no public money. Free enterprise. Get out of the way. Oh, and Rick, no surprises. Gee, I wonder why your party would be against this?


Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Did you guy lose running for Governor? You seem a bit pessimistic?