A $4 billion second bridge linking Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Mich., will now have to be approved by a public referendum in November, following a Michigan Supreme Court ruling.
A rendering of the proposed bridge crossing.
In June, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced he had bypassed the state legislature and struck a deal with Canadian officials to build the New International Trade Crossing. Canada will pay Michigan's $550-million share of the bridge. To recoup its money, Canada will charge tolls on the bridge for traffic coming into the country. There will be no tolls charged in Michigan for southbound traffic.
Proponents say the bridge is needed to take pressure off the crowded Ambassador Bridge border crossing, the busiest trade crossing on the U.S.-Canada border. A new direct connection between I-75 in Michigan and Highway 401 in Canada would ease traffic congestion at the border and allow trucks to bypass residential communities.
However, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge have been leading a campaign against a second crossing, and gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.
Opponents say traffic on the Ambassador Bridge is down 40% since 1999 and that the governor has not made a solid case for the need for a second crossing. Canadian officials say there's a need to look beyond short-term statistics and prepare long-term solutions for increased trade over the Detroit River.
The People Should Decide submitted an estimated 609,220 signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections of Michigan last week. Their amendment to the Michigan constitution would require voter approval of all future government-sponsored international crossings.
The Board of State Canvassers had decided a petition assembled by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun's company calling for voter approval before any new international bridge can be constructed in Michigan should not be included on the ballot.
But the state's top court overturned that decision in a ruling last week.
"Gov. Snyder may have tried to ignore the legislature in his rush to build a $3.5-billion government bridge to Canada, but he cannot ignore the Michigan people," said Mickey Blashfield, a spokesman for The People Should Decide. "The court has affirmed the people have a right to decide how our money is best spent. And we are confident that come election day, (the bridge's petition) initiative will be approved by Michigan voters."
A spokesman for the governor told the Windsor Star
that "in addition to jeopardizing Michigan's economic future by trying to derail the (DRIC bridge), the special interest backers of this initiative have worded it so poorly that it appears to require a statewide vote for any new (road) bridge in Michigan."RELATED STORIES:6/18/2012 Bridge Deal Reached for New Windsor-Detroit Border Crossing 7/16/2012 Border Bridge Opponents Submit Signatures to Put it to a Popular Vote