October 20, 2011
Plans for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., hit a dead end after the Michigan Senate rejected a $5.3 billion funding bill needed get construction started.Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, sponsor of the bridge legislation, said shortly after the Economic Development Committee rejected two versions of the proposal that he didn't foresee a renewed effort to win passage in the near term. "I'm done with it at this point. It's unfortunate. An opportunity was missed" to create 20,000-40,000 jobs, Richardville was quoted by the Detroit Free Press. "But there are other things we should be talking about."Proponents say the proposed bridge over the Detroit River, two miles downstream of the 82-year-old Ambassador Bridge, would boost trade between the countries.Geralyn Lasher, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, who has made building a new bridge one of his top priorities, said after the vote that the committee's decision was "extremely disappointing," but declined to speculate on where the proposal would go from here.Administration officials have hinted in the past that it might be possible to bypass the Legislature and greenlight the bridge by executive action. But they have not specified how that could be done, and said they preferred to have the endorsement of lawmakers.Passage of the bill would have allowed the state to accept $550 million from the Canadian government to fund the country's share of the New International Trade Crossing.The main opposition to the NITC comes from the Ambassador Bridge's owner, billionaire transportation executive Manuel "Matty" Moroun. He is reported to have made lavish campaign contributions to Republican members of the state legislature, and underwrote a statewide television campaign against the NITC.Matthew Moroun, vice chairman of the Detroit International Bridge Co. and son of Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, issued this statement after the vote."We applaud the committee for its efforts in acting as a jury in hearing all the facts. The Michigan Department of Transportation had a bad case to make as the bridge traffic reports and financial impact testimony before the committee clearly showed. Since 2006 when the initial effort to build this bridge began, the facts have proven it to be unjustified and unneeded. The Ambassador Bridge is the most efficient border crossing in North America and our mission remains to make it the absolute best border crossing. We look forward to working with the Governor and transportation officials in the future."The Ambassador Bridge company spent millions of dollars in the last six months in a campaign aimed at scuttling the new, government-owned bridge.