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Posted on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

Rep. Rick Olson offers conditional support of second bridge to Canada

By Ryan J. Stanton

State Rep. Rick Olson, a Republican from Washtenaw County's York Township, announced today he'll support construction of a second bridge to Canada — with a few conditions.

That includes a constitutional amendment prohibiting state funds from going toward the New International Trade Crossing project or "bailing out" any bridge authority.


Rick Olson

Olson said in a statement that establishing a freeway-to-freeway connection would enhance trade through the Montreal, Toronto, Windsor, Detroit and Chicago trade corridor and improve motorist convenience — objectives he argued are too important to be compromised by an individual company's profit motive.

Olson said it's not reasonable to protect Matty Maroun and the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador Bridge, from new competition.

But he said that competition needs to be fair, and so he's against government-subsidized competition against a private company that provides jobs for Michigan residents and pays Michigan taxes.

"As a strong supporter of private enterprise, it has taken me months of study and review of the facts to finally decide that the governor's proposal should be supported," Olson said. "There has been a lot of rhetoric and misinformation spread in this whole debate, and much personal investigation has been necessary to sort out fact from fiction."

Olson boiled down the NITC project this way:

  • The bridge itself — to be paid for from private funds through a public-private partnership and ultimately repaid through toll fees
  • The Canadian-side freeway extension and approaches to the proposed bridge — to be paid by the Canadian government
  • The American-side approaches to the proposed bridge — to be done with Canadian dollars loaned to the project and repaid through tolls from the proposed bridge
  • The customs stations on each side of the bridge — to be paid for by the respective countries, and not involving Michigan dollars

Olson's said at a forum last week in Ann Arbor he was opposed to the bridge project, which Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has been trying to win support for.

With Olson swinging his vote in favor of the project, all six of Washtenaw County's representatives in the state Legislature now support the project, though Reps. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, have indicated their support also will be conditional, as will support from Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor.

"I think we definitely need a second span and the state should definitely be involved in making that happen, but the devil's in the details," Irwin said last week. "Conceptually we need a second span, but not if it's a bad deal for the public. This public-private partnership can be structured in a million different ways and I want to make sure that the public is protected."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

From Michigan State, the football powerhouse. 10/11/11 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Ambassador Bridge Traffic Down : What Does It Mean? The Ambassador Bridge did experience a 2.51% decline in total traffic for September, 2011 compared to September 2010. The first inclination would be to ascribe this loss of traffic to the sputtering economy as it tries to recover from the recent deep recession. However, when one looks at the traffic numbers for other crossings, both in Michigan and elsewhere in the northeast, another picture emerges. Total traffic volumes for September 2011 were up compared to September 2010 at the Blue Water Bridge (up 7.62%), at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel (up 3.39%) and at the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie (up 7.61%). Looking at Buffalo, NY, total traffic at the Peace Bridge was up 1.64%, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge was up 14.72%, the Rainbow Bridge was up 12.81% and the Whirlpoool Rapids Bridge was up a whopping 37.19%. In fact, of the 11 crossings that are members of the Public Bridge Operator's Association (PBOA), only one other crossing besides the Ambassador Bridge, showed a decline in overall traffic for September 2011, and that was the Thousand Islands Bridge (down 0.33%). The Thousand Islands Bridge which connects Alexandria Bay, New York to Gananoque, Ontario, carried a total of 2,077,872 vehicles in 2010 (359,934 of then trucks) and year to date is running 1.07% behind last year. The Ambassador Bridge, which last year handled 7,232,366 vehicles (2,683,047 of them trucks) is currently running 0.07% behind last year's pace.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

Do all of you that support the new bridge realize this is same ploy the supporters of Mackinaw Bridge used? Legislation approving the Machinaw bridge said &quot;No taxpayer money&quot; would be used, two years later the law was changed. Every big public works program costs more than &quot;estimate&quot; given to public. Remember Boston's BIG DIG project? Big Dig estimated cost was $2.8 billion. &quot; The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038.&quot; It would be easy to get a constitutional admendment on Nov 2012 ballot. There is no doubt this project will fail without public funds. The $ from tolls are not there. The question for all of you supporters, Are you willing to pay $300 from your family's budget a year to pay for a new bridge you will not use?

Rick Olson

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

For clarification, a Michigan constitutional amendment requires two steps. First, both houses of the legislature must pass a concurrent resolution by 2/3 vote to put the issue on the ballot. Then, the voters must approve the amendment by a majority vote. Regarding the proposed bridge being public or private. The proposed method is via a &quot;public private partnership&quot; aka P3. This is simply a different method of funding a public structure. It involves private investment, and then the bridge would be built, maintained and operated for a specified period of years, as all laid out in an agreement negotiated with the private investors. The investors would get their return from the captured revenue stream from the bridge, i.e., the bridge tolls. The private investors bear the risk of the venture failing economically. The traditional alternative is for the state (or the bridge authority set up for the project) to sell bonds to finance the construction and pledge the bridge revenue to repay the bond holders (i.e., a &quot;revenue bond&quot;). The bond holders bear the risk, unless the legislature with voter approval has granted the bond holders &quot;the full faith and credit&quot; of the state. But, short of that, the state could later deem the bridge authority &quot;too big to fail&quot; and bail out a project that is not economically successful. That latter possibility in the context of the proposed P3 is exactly what a proposed constitutional amendment would guard against, and thus lessen the opposition of those who have been opposed to the NITC bill.

Rick Olson

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

Thanks for the feedback. Actually, I think getting 2/3 vote in both houses of the legislature for the proposed constitutional amendment should be easier than getting the majority votes for the NITC bill itself. Legislators supporting the NITC bill should vote for the amendment (tie barred to the NITC bill, i.e. the NITC bill is effective only if the amendment goes on the ballot) and those legislators in opposition mostly don't want taxpayer dollars paying for something they fear (whether justifiably or not) that the bridge will be a boondoggle, so they too should vote for the amendment. I would not even demand, as a condition of my vote for the bridge moving forward, that the proposed amendment be successful at the polls, as I think it would be such a slam dunk &quot;Yes&quot; vote for the vast majority of the voters who would want to protect their pocketbooks. I am hoping that this proposed set of conditions are sufficient to break the deadlock on this issue. Our international trade is too important (and will be increasingly important in the future) for us to remain deadlocked any longer. I invite you to read the entire rationale on my blog at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> to fully understand my reasoning.

Basic Bob

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 10:10 a.m.

Maybe they should make it a TOLL bridge. Then the USERS could pay for it. If Olson needs to go to Canada he will need to take another way to avoid paying for the bridge.

Chase Ingersoll

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

Note: contrary to other comments and replies, it does not take a vote of the electorate to pass an amendment to the Michigan constitution. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It would take a 2/3 vote of the Michigan House and Senate. If the bill is good enough and the cause correct enough to garner a 2/3 majority, despite the hundreds of thousands in advertising against, being spent by Maroun, then the bill probably deserves to pass, even if one personally thinks it is not the best idea. Note that Olson is one of the last local legislators to speak on this subject. Having spent time with Olson, I will tell you that is how he is. He sits back and lets everyone else talk and then some, and then he asks questions and only then does he offer his opinion.

Rob T

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

Can the man not legislate without passing a constitutional amendment?

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

There is no such thing as &quot;state funds&quot;. It is taxpayer money. Rigid protections preventing the abuse of our tax dollars on this are essential. These projects typically spiral out of control and go way over budget. Let someone else be on the hook for the boondoggle.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

Not too long ago our country viewed public works projects such as this one as necessities that should be supported by our government. Imagine if we depended on private development for our highways, water treatment, ect...

Joe Kidd

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

I agree with David. I thought an amendment to block state funds is over the top and overly restrictive. The state needs to be cautious not to build a money pit. But the possibility remains that at some time in the future some infusion of state funds may not be a negative, so why limit your options. The ads against this bridge, all paid for my Maroun for his own fiscal benefit, are disgusting. If we need the bridge, build it.

Dr. Rockso

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Hahaa! Rich guy Snyder can't get Rich guy Maroun's friends to go along!!! Hahaa!

David Cahill

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 6 p.m.

Olson is attaching conditions that can't be fulfilled immediately, if ever. A constitutional amendment requires a vote of the people, which can't happen until over a year from now. So in reality he is still opposed.

Tom Teague

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

Well said, David. This is a text book example of the art of 21st century political speech: &quot;I was against the bridge before I was for it, but now that I'm against it, I'm all for it as long as certain conditions apply.&quot;

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

Exactly. But he does a great job of sounding as if he supports building the bridge while, in fact, his stand blocks its construction. Sorry I voted for this guy. Won't make that mistake again. Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

Good for him.