Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

November 2, 2012

Prop. 6 opponents are numerous

Measure is supported by Moroun family

The list of supporters for the planned New International Trade Crossing in Detroit reads like a roll call of distinguished Michigan stakeholders. Five governors. Five automakers. Twenty-three chambers of commerce. The state's largest newspapers, corporations and most influential movers and shakers all have signed on in agreement that the state needs a new, modern link between the United States and Canada.

Why, then, did more than 477,000 residents sign petitions for a ballot proposal that would put its construction up for a popular vote?

Because the organization that stands to lose the most from the new bridge's construction — the Detroit International Bridge Co. of Manuel Moroun and family, which wholly owns the 82-year-old Ambassador Bridge — has mounted a furious battle to preserve its own stake, bankrolling a campaign it calls "The People Should Decide" and represented by Proposal 6 on the November ballot.

Proposal 6 would require all new international bridges and tunnels built in the state to be pre-approved by voters statewide and in the individual municipalities where they would be erected. Further, it defines "new" retroactively, to those not open for business on Jan. 1, 2012, potentially undoing the international agreement for the new bridge signed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. In that agreement, the Canadian government agrees to carry Michigan's $550 million share of the costs.

While much has been made by opponents of the bridge's $2.2 billion price tag, the NITC project is small potatoes compared to other major public works now under way. California has embarked on a high-speed rail project with an estimated cost nearing $70 billion; New York City is spending $6 billion to drill a new tunnel to bring water to the city.

No other state with an international border that crosses water — Maine, New York, Minnesota and Texas — has a similar law to what Proposal 6 would impose in Michigan, although Texas and Minnesota are like Michigan in having privately owned bridge crossings.

Proposal 6 also would treat international crossings differently than other public bridges in Michigan, which number more than 10,000, according to a calculation by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

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