Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

February 10, 2013

Funding issue halts bridge plaza work

PORT HURON (AP) — A $145 million expansion of the Blue Water Bridge customs plaza in Port Huron has been halted due to a lack of federal funding.

City leaders were told Friday that the federal government isn't interested in continuing the project, which began in 2002, the Times-Herald reported.

The project is not part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's current five-year plan, said Dennis Counihan, a spokesman for the agency.

"We just don't have the federal dollars right now," Counihan said.

The Blue Water Bridge, about 55 miles northeast of Detroit, connects Port Huron and Ontario over the St. Clair River. In 2011, $47 billion in goods passed through the international border crossing, said Kelby Wallace, state transportation project manager for the plaza expansion.

The project was intended to lower and expand the plaza. Parts of Interstate 94 and Interstate 69 also were to be reconstructed and expanded.

Originally, the project was to cost a lofty $500 million and involve 56 acres of land, but budget issues forced it to be scaled down in December 2011 to only 16 acres.

State Transportation officials said last summer that they expected work on the expansion could start in 2016 if federal money was available.

But Counihan said Friday that funding for those types of projects have not been allocated since 2010. He said the expansion could be reconsidered at some point.

For now, smaller projects will be looked at to improve the flow of traffic and goods across the bridge, Wallace said.

She state also will continue to hold onto land it purchased. A number of commercial properties and 125 houses were bought and demolished for the expansion project.

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