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Posted on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 11 a.m.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber says building new bridge to Canada is partly about Canadian quality of life

By Ryan J. Stanton

Beyond the basic economics of a new highway-to-highway bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber says it's an issue of Canadian quality of life.

At a luncheon this past week attended by Roy Norton, Canada's consul general, the chamber's John Petz talked about the traffic congestion he's witnessed on the Ambassador Bridge, which dates back to 1929 and spits off onto a local street in Windsor.

"Especially for those who don't cross the border very often, the Ambassador Bridge dumps out onto a street known as Huron Church Road in Windsor — not a freeway," said Petz, who is past chairman of the chamber and a current board member. "This is a regular commercial road with businesses and residential neighborhoods."

NITC_bridge_drawing.jpg

A sketch of the proposed New International Trade Crossing prepared by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Petz, who works in real estate and public affairs for Domino's Farms, encouraged those in attendance to picture 8,000 trucks a day being dumped onto Washtenaw Avenue.

"Imagine what that would do to your community," he said. "This matters to the Canadian quality of life. This is important to what they're addressing beyond the trade issues."

Terri Blackmore, executive director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, said Petz is correct in asserting that's an overwhelming amount of truck traffic for a street like Huron Church Road, which she said might be more comparable to Liberty or Main Street in Ann Arbor.

"Think of all those trucks coming through, and there are a lot," she said, agreeing with the need for a new bridge. "It's a great idea and I think it's really important for the state, not just Detroit."

The A2Y Chamber first announced its support of the proposal for a second bridge to Canada last year and has continued to lobby for the project since Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed an agreement with Canadian officials in June. The chamber has submitted public comments in support of the so-called New International Trade Crossing to the U.S. Department of State.

"You may say, well, why do these international crossings matter?" Petz said. "What does this mean to us and our economy? There are 8 million U.S. jobs that are dependent on U.S.-Canada trade. This represents $689 billion of goods and services every year."

Petz pointed out the Detroit-Windsor crossing serves as the main funnel of trade between the two nations. He said he personally can attest to the traffic bottleneck that exits now.

"This absolutely boggles my mind, but there are currently 17 traffic lights between Highway 401, which is the nearest freeway interchange, and the Ambassador Bridge," he said. "There are a total of 18 traffic lights between Montreal and the Mexican border."

On a personal note, Petz said, he'll be pleased when the new highway-to-highway span — roughly two miles down the Detroit River from the Ambassador Bridge — is built.

"Because it will improve my travel options as I'm heading across the border to my wife's family's cottage out along Point Pelee," he said, "and avoiding some of the haphazard construction-barrel shuffling that occurs with the current bridge as we navigate the schedule of their improvements."

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Monday voted 2-1 in favor of certification of a ballot proposal aimed at blocking construction of the bridge, but MLive.com reported the measure was kept off the ballot because it did not receive required bipartisan support.

The proposal, backed by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, would amend the Michigan constitution to require a public vote on any international bridge or tunnel project not completed by the end of the year, including the New International Trade Crossing.

The People Should Decide, a ballot committee funded by Moroun companies, collected more than 600,000 signatures from Michigan voters in order to place the proposal on the ballot.

The Marouns have been accused of grossly misleading television ads — funded to the tune of $10 million — claiming the bridge will cost Michigan taxpayers billions of dollars.

Canada, which is bringing $550 million to the table, has agreed to cover Michigan's upfront costs for the project and recoup investment through future toll revenue.

It also has agreed to absolve Michigan of any liability for any part of the project, meaning the Canadians are taking all the risk, Norton said at the chamber luncheon.

The People Should Decide still isn't buying it. The committee posted this message on its Facebook page on Monday:

"The governor says the bridge will be free… But his plan depends on a $550 million loan from Canada. The Crossing Agreement makes clear: So long as that loan remains unpaid, Michigan is prevented from collecting any share of the toll revenues generated from the bridge — and Canada will continue to collect interest. That could put Michigan in debt to Canada for decades to come."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

Comments

Kurt Hesse

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

Heres a little lesson for those who know NOTHING about international border crossings.. I keep hearing people say Moroun's willing to build a bridge that wont cost you ANYTHING?? Stupidest thing I've ever heard.. He's trying to build one up in the Niagra region too. Already owns all the land on both sides for it .. Pay attention here.. Moroun builds the bridge...630 million? (this will make the math easier).. Then what? Call in the taxpayers. Time to hook it into the freeway systems ON BOTH SIDES! Canadas offer for our interchanges...550 million.. Another 550 million on the Canadian side.. WALA! Moroun just got Dumb and Dumber to spend 200 MILLION more than he did on the span!! You think thats stupid? We aren't done yet. Those are just the states costs. Now call in the feds and have em build your inspection plazas.(after Moroun rapes us over the cost of the land). Those are said to be in the area of another 265 million.. Each side. New total......Now the taxpayer's spent 1 billion more than Moroun's spent building the bridge... He builds his little toll collection booths.. Hires some minimum wage folks to take your money and we pay for EVERY other face you see at that crossing. 100 million a year the taxpayer spends to run this crossing for our "private" business. News flash... This is probably one of our nations greatest welfare scams ever... We run the Ambassador Bridge.. To think otherwise is stupid!

JRW

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

Petz, who works in real estate and public affairs for Domino's Farms, encouraged those in attendance to picture 8,000 trucks a day being dumped onto Washtenaw Avenue. "Imagine what that would do to your community," he said. "This matters to the Canadian quality of life. This is important to what they're addressing beyond the trade issues." Ha. Good analogy. We already have hundreds if not thousands of huge trucks, congestion, and choking fumes being spewed along Washtenaw. There is no quality of life along Washtenaw Ave. And all the fancy projects to make it more "liveable" are a joke. It's a congested, nasty roadway to be avoided. Huron Church Road in Windsor is a dump due to the extreme truck traffic. Another good example is Rt 12 Michigan Ave right through downtown Saline. Ever try to sit outside at one of the restaurants at the downtown intersection in Saline? Forget about it. Fumes and thousands of semi tractor trailer trucks driving by. Nice. Huron Church Road in Windsor is a dump due to the extreme truck traffic.

kathryn

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

I believe that international border crossings should be built, owned, and run cooperatively by the two political entities involved, i.e., they should be publicly owned, not private. (It's very telling that the anti-NITC ads keep referring to a "government" bridge instead of a "public" bridge, because I think most people feel that such crossing should be public.) There are lots of good reasons to build a new bridge...the age of the current one, the poor location on the Windsor side, the need to build better customs facilities, and the need to improve the infrastructure for truck crossings, which will help support the growth of business here in the U.S. and in Canada. A second span at the current location in private hands (a monopoly) does not address all these issues; the new NITC does. Let's move forward.

GoNavy

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

So, that's the answer? We're going to spend a few hundred million public dollars to improve the quality of life of some Canadians who live on Huron Church Road? I know this road well. I know the area well enough. It's nothing like "Liberty or Main Street," as Mr. Blackmore suggested. It's 6 lanes of well-built road with a beautiful median, If Canada wants to improve the quality of life for Canadians in the area, they simply need to create a spur access road to the EC Row expressway. There's no need to build an entire bridge to solve the problem.

James

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 5 p.m.

Just silly. If you would put more thought into posts instead of trying to display your intelligence you would be much further ahead. Your argument is unrealistic and honestly just doesn't make much sense. It sounds good, you use nice words, but it lacks actual meaning. What I gather from your posts, you ask why build a bridge to satisfy some Canadians. When I posed the question would it not satisfy some Americans as well, you retort with telling me of your travels as if you traveling makes your argument right. I would think Manhattan sees a little more traffic than say Detroit but I will concede that point. I will simply ask what if Michigan would like to improve on a broken system where one doesn't have to simply "deal with it". Optimal solution would be paving over the river?? Are you saying things simply for the sake of saying them? I'm dumbfounded as to how that would be the optimal solution… I believe the optimal solution would be to build a second bridge. Like the idea they are entertaining.

jcj

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

Go Navy So your logic is to stick with an antiquated system because "it's almost always backed up, so deal with it." Maybe we should have stuck with the U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia!

GoNavy

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

James- I was responding specifically to this article, not the overall discussion regarding the bridge. Re: "Waiting at chokepoints" - the answer is most definitely yes, having grown up in both the Windsor and Metro Detroit areas. That includes both the tunnel (which empties onto Jefferson/Park) and the bridge. I also spent several years out east, and can describe to you exactly what it's like to cross any number of access points to and from Manhattan (the answer is "it's almost always backed up, so deal with it.") Obviously, more bridges would be better. The "optimal" solution from a throughput perspective would be to simply pave over the entire river - that way, everybody could drive over whenever they want, wherever they want. However, since we don't do things like that, we have to measure relative utility. In other words, we weight spending hundreds of millions of public dollars vs. the cumulative impact of that spending. If - as you suggest - we're only improving the life of "a few Canadians and Michiganders," then I'm not sure the answer is to build a second bridge.

James

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

I do not believe anyone has suggested that the only reason to build the bridge is to improve the quality of life of "some Canadians". In the few comments alone on this page there have been several reasons pointed out for building a bridge; and I'm sure there are several reasons not to as well. Have you never waited in traffic going to or from the Ambassador bridge? Would it not improve "some Michiganders" quality of life as well? Or did we not think that far ahead?

trespass

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

Windsor has had decades to build a connector to the freeway but they choose not to do it. Why should a private company then suffer when they have a perfect right under an international treaty to maintain their revenues. To do otherwise is just stealing money from a private company. If Windsor wants to build another bridge they should buy out the Ambassador Bridge Company and then they can either build a connector highway or they can move the bridge.

pseudo

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

because the private company has a monopoly and doens't have market conditions to push it to either maintain it properly or keep its fees in check or anything other than lines its pockets on our backs like the railroad barrons of old.

treetowncartel

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

The bridge is a no brainer, why anybody other than the Maroun's wouldn't support it is beyond me. We are surrounded by water, an additional point of entry for vehicle traffic is good for the state.

Stan Hyne

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 6:38 a.m.

And the country

jcj

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

Agree totally!

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 6 p.m.

The entire discussion of Detroit--Windsor traffic has been narrowed to the Maroun's versus Snyder, or in other words, a second span at the Ambassador site, or a new bridge farther south. I have other questions. The traffic issue is based on truck traffic. Why aren't more trucks using the fairly new Blue Water Bridge and the 402? If you look at a map, its not really out of the way if your destination/origin is London, ON, or any point east of there. Seems the extra miles are more than made up by avoiding all the idling at the Ambassador. Or is the Blue Water just as backed up as the Ambassador? Secondly, why has there been no discussion of expanding international rail service? I know there's a rail tunnel under the Detroit river that gets fairly heavy use. Why not add a second rail tunnel or rail bridge and larger/better truck trailer transfer stations on both sides of the border? Trains are clearly more efficient for bulk and distance. Finally, what will be the impact of a new span on Detroit's Delray neighborhood? Seems the Mexican neighborhood around the Ambassador has already been wiped out by all the new highway construction related to the new ramps to and from the Ambassador. Will more construction to the south just drive more people out of one of the few remaining viable neighborhoods in Detroit? I haven't seen much, if any discussion of these topics in the media.

jns131

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

ills? This is what Canadian officials want to avoid. Imminent domain. They don't' want also to invade a wildlife area that is protected by their laws. This is why the bridge is being built where it will be built. Next to the 401. No disruptions to the people and no disruptions to the wildlife.

llspier

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

There's plenty of capacity at the Blue Water. Inspection and customs is always a problem-and they keep expanding their capacity but it's still crowded. But, a great many of the trucks crossing the Ambassador are going to just outside of Windsor-to automotive suppliers. Ford alone says they put about 600 trailer-loads a day across the Ambassador. To go from Detroit to the Blue Water, then cut back west to Windsor adds about 4 hours each way That's also many gallons of expensive diesel and almost half of a truck driver's legal working day. Since a round trip will take an entire day, that means many more trucks will be needed. Enjoy your new $60,000 Big Three auto. There is no truck route from Sarnia down around the lake to Windsor so trucks are forced to go clear to London and cut back. Since the rail load and unload time must be take into account, rail between Detroit and Windsor would make no sense at all-and trucks would be required at both ends to move the trailer to the destination-even if it only a mile or so away. There is no room at either end of the Ambassador for larger/better trailer transfer points . . in fact, there isnt even room for adequate inspection and customs at the border. It simply cant be done in the available space. Del Ray is hardly what I would call a viable neighborhood-its the remains of an old industrial neighborhood. As long as people are well compensated for their property and helped to relocate, this is still the best option. Much as I hate eminent domain, in this case, it's really necessary.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

SMC: The Blue Water is two spans of 3 lanes each. The Ambassador is 4 lanes. Both have undergone work to increase the size of customs areas--but I think the Blue Water work is ongoing, where they are adding more inspection stations. If you're traveling to Ohio from Windsor or Chatham, certainly it's shorter to take the Ambassador. But if you're traveling from London or anyplace east of there, there is only a 4 mile difference to Detroit between the 402 and the 401, according to Google Maps. Also, when you use the Blue Water, you are on limited access freeways on both sides of the border--no working your way through town like you do approaching the Ambassador from the 401. It sounds to me like the issue with all the crossings is the delay to pay tolls and the time to go through customs, not necessarily the lack of traffic capacity.

SMC

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

The Blue Water cannot handle as much traffic as the Ambassador can, and it is out of the way if your destination is Ohio or anywhere south. Try crossing back through Port Huron when it's busy, and you're lined up for 20 minutes to pay the toll on the Canadian side, then it's stop-go all the way across the bridge until you've cleared customs on the other.

johnnya2

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

1. The bridge is necessary. Moroun says traffic is down since the recession, but bridges do not get built in a month. Planning for the future is SMART 2. National security- Why would anybody allow Manny Mouron to have control over crossing international borders. If the bridge collapsed tomorrow what would he do? Imagine a bomb hits it. 3. Monopolies are bad- Why should Manny be allowed to do whatever the hell he wants. We have already seen he and his company have no respect for the courts or laws http://www.freep.com/article/20120112/NEWS01/120112008/Matty-Moroun-Ambassador-Bridge-dispute 4. Canada could easily end this entire thing and tell Manny that, they will only allow X number of trucks to cross into RESIDENTIAL neighborhoods after a specific date. (after a new bridge could be built). The Ambassador becomes obsolete and useless. I really have no concern about who pays for it. I am fine if the state funds it, or Canada "fronts" us the money. The state pays for I75 and Washtenaw Avenue, sowwhy wouldn't the state or US government pay for a MAJOR border crossing? Why would you privatize a road between two countries. Treaties detrmine what happens, not Manny Mouron

jns131

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

We also have to remember this. He does not own the Blue Water Bridge. But if the Windsor falls down tomorrow, traffic would be snarled and Port Huron would not know what to do with itself due to the influx of traffic having to go thru there. Yes, there is a highway, but I don't think the Blue Water can hold that much traffic. Manny needs to wake up and realize we too won't be held hostage to the troll under the bridge. Thank you for this post.

jcj

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

Very well said I agree totally!

James

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

I'm curious if anyone knows... I go to Snyders website and read that he does in fact say "That bridge won't cost Michigan a thing"., it stops there and I do not see any further detail. In this article it states that "Canada, which is bringing $550 million to the table, has agreed to cover Michigan's upfront costs for the project and recoup investment through future toll revenue." I see people jump to the conclusion that this is a loan, but the way I read it "cover" and "loan" are not one in the same. What do the Canadians say the deal is? Are they loaning? Or are they paying and then reaping furutre benefits from the bridge as repayment?

talker

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

If Michigan simply doesn't collect tolls for the bridge until Canada recoups our half of the cost, we wouldn't be giving anything up because isn't it the owner of the Ambassador Bridge and not the citizens of Michigan who collects the tolls now?

jcj

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

SMC Thanks for explaining this in a way EVERYONE SHOULD be able to understand.

SMC

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

In a world without Matty Moroun, both Michigan and Ontario would contribute equally to the construction costs, and split the toll revenues. But, since the little troll who lives under the Ambassador Bridge has been throwing money to the politicians in Lansing, Canada is willing to assume 100% of the upfront costs, essentially loaning Michigan their 1/2 of the construction costs, to be repaid out of toll revenues. Even if that were to take 100 years, the people and state of Michigan will not be out of pocket for any of the costs. In short, it's a pretty standard business loan, only it won't have to be repaid by a bankrupt state if the business venture fails. Which it won't.

Basic Bob

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

The Ambassador bridge was built in 1927-1929. The 401 was built almost 30 years later. They couldn't agree on a route for the rest of the highway. Now that they have, it's time to finish it.

pseudo

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

As Macabre points out - there are far more complicated motivations for this second bridge on both sides of the river. I support building a public second span over the river. why? Two reasons: I believe that sometimes, we as a people have to act in our collective best interests and build public assets. Despite a bunch of dogma to the contrary. this is one of those times. The second reason is that I hate robberbarons and private monopolies. They are inherently corrupt and inherently not driven by market forces or public interest. This is the case with Matty Maroun and his family. The bridge is in bad shape. It hasn't been maintained as it should have been and its beyond its planned lifespan. Given Mr. Maroun's track record with his properties in Detroit, best exemplified by the Michigan Central Station - I wouldn't trust him to do right for anyone but himself. That won't get a properly built bridge working in our near future. He may hold us hostage to shake us down for more money but he isn't someone willing or required to operate for the public benefit. All of which is fine but we don't need allow it.

jns131

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Thank you for this post.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

This story makes it seem like the top reason for spending $550 million is to help a few businesses in another country. Windsor planners clearly wanted the bridge dumping people straight into a heavy business area. The comparison of the number of traffic lights along the London-Windsor run to the Montreal-Mexico trip is silly-season stuff at best. If you've ever traveled that route, you know that for whatever reason (probably the above reason) Windsor didn't want the Ambassador bridge and 401 anywhere near each other. That is a long stretch of road without a highway. I think it would be best if A2.com refrained from simply reprinting press releases on complex stories - the bloggers here clearly don't have the time and ability to comprehend this.

jns131

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

In 1937, the governor signed a bill to create the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission during a period when the nation was still recovering from that era's depression. The Pennsylvania Turnpike officially entered service October 1, 1940. In 1949, the legislature authorized creation of the Ohio Turnpike As for the bridge no one knew what a truck was except something that transported goods from one place to another and was under 40 feet in length if that at best. Since the 1970's more goods were transported by rail and truck then by any other method. Since trucks can get goods to more remote places then a train can, trucks became bigger and bigger. Where the Windsor sits now is great if you are someone wanting to visit Windsor or someone in that area. Trust you me, I remember as a child visiting friends and family and my parents having to navigate that area just to get to the 401. I for one can't wait to see a better bridge so I can get to the 401 faster without getting lost following all of these signs. By the way, Maroun cannot amend the Michigan constitution without votes from the senate and the governor and this includes the people in the state of Michigan. He is really grasping at straws isn't he?

llspier

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 2:31 a.m.

A little ancient history might be in order here: the Ambassador bridge was built in 1929. In 1929, there was very little large truck traffic (and NO 75-foot trucks)) and the City of Windsor grew up around the route. The 401 didn't exist in 1929-neither did any other freeway-style highways. I believe the PA Turnpike was the first-and it opened around 1940. As for not wanting the bridge and the 401 near each other, Canada built the E C Row Expressway AROUND the far side of Windsor to connect to both the 401 and the automotive manufacturers in the suburb of Essex. Since 1980, the western end of that expressway has sat-half a mile from the Detroit River, waiting for the bridge planned so long ago. Maybe they got tired of waiting and tired of Maroun holding up progress. As for the 18 stoplights, it would be a VERY big deal to you if you were a resident of Windsor and were forced to negotiate a six-lane surface street along with 8000 trucks that must stop at every red light and take almost to the next light to get rolling (before they stop again). The seventeen stoplights are necessary because the non-stop truck traffic makes it impossible for those on cross streets to get across Huron Church. As for the one other stoplight between Montreal and Mexico, that's the one coming off the Ambassador on the US side before you hit I-75. Having driven that route countless times in an 18-wheeler, I can vouch for the fact that this is no more fun for a trucker than it is for car traffic. Imagine, clear sailing for 3000 miles . . .except for a six or seven mile stretch of pure hell! Imagine the poor people who live there . . it truly IS a quality of life issue-among other things.

jcj

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

It is CLEAR at least one blogger here does not "comprehend this"

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

That would be my point. Someone decided that this was the best place for the Ambassador Bridge. Someone else decided, later on, that's where the highway would go. I'm not saying it would have been cheap, but effective city planning isn't cheap and Windsor never made it a priority to get people on the highway very quickly. This means a lot of extra traffic in that business district. Can't be too bad, because the business district still exists.

SMC

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

The reason the bridge and the 401 are so far apart is because the city of Windsor existed long before either of them. Then came the bridge, and then the 401 freeway. It has nothing to do with the city or province of Ontario wanting travelers and commercial vehicles to spend unnecessary hours idling in traffic.