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Posted on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 8:45 a.m.

Persistence and vision will win out over Matty Moroun's money in quest to build new bridge

By Guest Column


Tom Watkins

Governor Snyder, vision, leadership and persistence will ultimately build the New International Trade Crossing bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Legislature is on its annual deer hunting and turkey-eating break. The governor and his team need to use this time to figure out how to get the job done.

One thing is for sure: persistence is needed to ensure that the new public-private bridge is built.

That’s one of the lessons to be learned from how a previous governor and Legislature came together to build a bridge -- and our state -- over a half century ago.

Fifty-four years ago, Michigan’s governor, lawmakers, business, labor and citizens across the state cheered the opening of a bridge connecting our two beautiful peninsulas: the Mackinac Bridge.

Like today, the quest to build the Mackinac Bridge produced naysayers who questioned its need and feasibility and claimed the financing “scheme” to pay for the construction of the bridge was unworkable.

Yet our political leaders then, chief among them Gov. G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, were able to overcome the obstacles and build the bridge. Today, we have a beautiful span that stands as a reminder of our capability to overcome insurmountable odds.

Why were our elected leaders then able to build a bridge many thought impossible? Because of vision, leadership and persistence.


The Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957 after years of political battles to build it.

Photograph by Derek Wong | Wikimedia Commons

The Mackinac Bridge opened to traffic on Nov. 1, 1957. In the souvenir book celebrating the grand opening, a section titled “the legislative story” reads: “it is a symbol of progress in Michigan, progress made possible by far-sightedness, by the co-operation, by the unity of purpose and by the devotion to the idea on the part of leaders in the legislature, state administration and interested citizens.”

It concludes with this sentence, “Application of the same spirit to other fields will bring a great deal of prosperity in Michigan and make our state a better place in which to work and live.”

We can only wish this sentiment would have spilled over to today.

Gov. Williams in his welcome letter in the same souvenir book wrote, “In a larger sense, this bridge is more than just the world’s greatest bridge of steel and concrete. It’s also a symbol of the Michigan spirit -- the spirit of a people for whom no obstacle is too wide, no job too big, no undertaking too difficult.”

The New International Trade Crossing, of course, is being held hostage by the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge, Matty Moroun, and his money and legislative influence.

Michigan should be building a second bridge and putting people to work, not playing political games. Building the new bridge benefits our economic future and makes all the sense in the world.

Canada is our largest trading partner. International trade creates thousands of jobs in Michigan and countless more across the U.S. The case has been made to build another international bridge crossing -- and we want it in Michigan, not some other state.

A new bridge has deep support from business, labor, Gov. Snyder and all of Michigan’s living former governors, Republican and Democrat alike. It’s time to build the public/private New International Trade Crossing and get Michigan working again.

Gov. Snyder, please take the advice of our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, when he said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

In his first State of the State address nearly a year ago, Gov. Snyder surprised many when he called for the building of this bridge. To date, political gamesmanship and lots of Matty Moroun’s money have dug a moat around accomplishing this goal.

The governor has provided the rationale, vision, and leadership to build this needed bridge. Time will tell if he has the persistence to persevere.

Tom Watkins is a former state school superintendent and a recipient of the 2011 Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership Detroit life Time Achievement Award. He can be reached at



Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

Thanks for an outstanding Opinion piece. I didn't vote for Snyder, but I like it when he stands up for the State like this.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

The new bridge is very much needed. The Ambassador Bridge seems to be constantly under repair and is controlled by a greedy thug who has been milking the citizens and State of Michigan for many decades. Detroit is the top port of entry on the U.S.-Canada border in terms of trade and commerce. If this is true with the antiquated crossings we have in place currently including the tunnel just imagine how much a modern new bridge can enhance this standing. A significant Increase trade between Michigan and Canada will undoubtedly enhance the economic health of our state. I am no fan of Heir Snyder but I am behind this effort to free our state from the greedy interference of Matty Maroun.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 2:02 a.m.

In my view, the people of Michigan are short on vision. The U.S. has been the world leader for so long partly because the people had the vision to look into the future with a will and determination to take risks and move forward. Right now, we are sitting on our butts hanging on to every nickel hoping the Chinese will fail and good times will come sneaking in the back door to bring back good times. Well, guess what! That is not going to happen. If we want good times back, we have to do things to bring them back. Building a bridge that actually works should encourage much more traffic and bring business to Michigan. Who wants to bring a semi or car through the tunnel into the center of the city, or drive over Matthew Maroun's two-lane cow path? We need a bridge that is modern, that has adequate facilities for customs work, and that ties into expressways in an area not in the center of town. Just because Maroun has spent tons of money on legislative support and to bludgeon Michigan's citizens into opposing the new bridge, that doesn't mean that the leaders of the state, and the Governor in particular, shouldn't do everything they can to lead (LEAD) the people in the direction of expanding access to Michigan to help our economy come back. I vote for the new bridge.


Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

59 % of Michigan residents do not want the bridge. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> For supporters, where is the economic justification? &quot;Basic problem for the NITC is that traffic has been declining in recent years - it's down over 40% since 1999 which was the peak year for the crossings. Halcrow traffic projections suggest it will be 2035 before the 1999 number - handled with present capacity - is regained. &quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> If supporters want to go forward, how about a constitutional admendment saying no Michigan tax $'s for the bridge? How much out of your personal budget are you willing to spend to support an unnecessary new bridge? One of you supporters please answer the question.

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

Some businessmen are going to get RICH from this bridge project. And it isn't at all clear how much it will cost the taxpayers today and in the future. This project is more like a &quot;railroad&quot; job and less like a bridge. I don't have any problem with the current bridge and tunnel.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

I was on the Ambassador Bridge this past weekend. It's sad. One lane each way. The bridge always seems to have major work going on. The entrance way to get on the bridge looks like something from a third world country...not the US. I'm all for a new bridge. I'm tired of dirty Moroun.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

This will never be built with our current set of lawmakers in Lansing. Our lawmakers are bought and paid for by Matty. Even though all of the automakers, Canada, and Ohio want this bridge to be built for economic growth, our lawmakers are sitting on pile of cash to keep it from being built. They will say they we will be on the hook for its maintenance and will cost taxpayers money. Well guess what, all of our roads and bridges cost us money each year to maintain, should we stop repairing them or remove them because it costs to much to have them and use them. How shortsighted can you get, the only way this will be built is for the people of Michigan to vote all these lawmakers out of office that are blocking this bridge from being built. This is our future, we need to take control of it and get this bridge built.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

The problem is not just &quot;building&quot; a bridge. It is what happens after that that the taxpayers have to contend with. The Mackinac is a perfect example of this. When you get an opportunity, review HB4627 and HB4631 from 2003. The taxpayers forgave $75,000,000 of advances to keep the Mac up and running...and, in addition, appropriated no less than $5,250,000 per year, thereafter, to try to keep it running. Now it is due for serious maintenance...who foots that bill? Contractors, investment bankers, Canada, etc. will be more than happy to &quot;build&quot; this bridge. Who is on the hook for the shortfalls when the tolls aren't generating the income to keep it operating? Snyder will no doubt be long gone by the time HIS bridge becomes the same anchor on the taxpayers that the Mackinaw has.

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Perfect example.