Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 15, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Where is new bridge to Canada?

So whatever happened to the New International Trade Crossing Bridge over the Detroit River?

Why hasn’t ground been broken yet? When will construction start? Didn’t the two governments sign an agreement last year?

Didn’t President Barack Obama issue a presidential permit for the bridge back in April? Didn’t Michigan voters last year decisively defeat Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s attempt to give himself a perpetual monopoly over the nation’s most important trade crossing?

Well, yes, all those things are true. Yet it turns out there is one last remaining real hurdle. Not the nuisance lawsuits continually filed by Matty Moroun, an 86-year-old billionaire with money to burn.

Not the last remaining parcels of land to be acquired and soil testing to be done. The holdup comes from Washington, and, bizarrely, the Obama Administration itself may be the main culprit.

Canada has, as most who have been following this issue know, offered to front all of Michigan’s share of the costs for what is estimated to be a $4 billion project. That money is eventually to be paid out of the state’s share of the bridge tolls.

But there is one remaining expense that is the responsibility of the U.S. government: A customs plaza, which is required at any international border crossing. Estimates are this will cost about $250 million, and would have to be approved by Congress.

Yet the administration has yet to send up legislation asking for this to be approved. Granted, getting any new expense approved isn’t easy, given divided control of government, the sequestration wars, and the poisonous atmosphere between the parties.

However, there is broad — if reluctant — bipartisan agreement that a new bridge is needed. Michigan’s Republican governor may be the bridge’s loudest champion, but most of the state’s Democratic delegation endorsed it even before he was elected.

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