Posted: Feb 3, 2009, 8:51 AM
Midwest Moderator - Editor
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Big Mitten
A new article and comparison that does a pretty good job of explaining the two different projects moving forward:
Detroit River International Crossing
• Owner: To-be-established public-private multinational authority. The project is a joint effort of the Michigan Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.
• Cost: $1.5 billion to $3 billion (estimated).
• Financing: Municipal bonds repaid with toll costs.
• Key dates: Construction begins in 2010, opens in 2013.
• Bridge type: Cable-stayed or suspension.
• Site: Detroit’s Delray neighborhood north of Zug Island to a location in Ontario between the Brighton Beach power plant and a Canada Salt Inc. plant.
Ambassador Bridge second span
• Owner: Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co.
• Cost: $1 billion.
• Financing: Private activity bonds repaid with toll costs.
• Key dates: No start date. Thirty-six months for span construction.
• Bridge type: Six-lane cable-stayed, 6,200 feet long (2,200 over the river).
• Site: Adjacent to the current bridge.
Source: Crain’s research
And, the article:
Bridge duel continues between state and Moroun
By Bill Shea / Crain's Detroit Business
Feb. 1, 2009
The high-stakes standoff between Manuel Moroun and an international coalition of governments continues as both make incremental progress toward competing billion-dollar Detroit River crossings.
The situation got fresh impetus in recent weeks, thanks to a pair of U.S. Department of Transportation approvals for the simultaneous bridge projects — which include Michigan jointly funding infrastructure at one while seeking to build the other itself just a mile away.
On one side is Grosse Pointe land baron and trucking tycoon Moroun, who owns the 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge and is building a $1 billion, six-lane second span to replace the old four-lane structure.
Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co. was pre-approved on Jan. 6 for up to $787.4 million in private activity bonds, similar to tax-free municipal bonds. The first phase of the bridge project was approved for $212.6 million in private activity bonds on June 4, which covered the bridge company's portion of infrastructure work on a new highway interchange serving the crossing, said Mickey Blashfield, the bridge company's director of governmental relations.
The other project is the $1.5 billion plan to build a government-owned bridge, the Detroit River International Crossing, in Detroit's industrial Delray neighborhood to connect to Ontario. The U.S. government on Jan. 15 gave its environmental approval for the project, which is the product of the state of Michigan, Ontario and Canada's federal government.
The Michigan Department of Transportation is the primary U.S. agency seeking to build the new crossing starting next year while also completing the $230 million Ambassador Gateway project — the massive new interchange serving the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96.
Moroun and his aides say the DRIC bridge is unfair competition and unneeded because fewer cars and trucks are crossing the border, and they accuse its backers of sabotaging their privately funded effort to twin the Ambassador Bridge by delaying approvals.
“We have our would-be competition, or those in support of the DRIC bridge, thoroughly obstructing a bridge-replacement project no one should be against,” said Matthew Moroun, vice president of the bridge company and Manuel Moroun's son. MDOT denies DRIC would be much competition.
“We need both (bridges),” said Bill Schreck, the agency's communications manager. “The business community is telling us that they need better access and mobility at the border.”
No one disputes border traffic is down, the latest numbers showing 1.7 million fewer cars and trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge in 2008 than the year before. That's a 19 percent decline, and mirrors a trend since 2001. (See box above.)
The decline is temporary, and traffic will rise and require a second bridge, Schrek said.
“In the last 35 years, this is the fourth period of flat growth at the crossing,” he said. “It always restarts again. This is cyclical. Michigan is blessed with two of the busiest border crossings in North America.”
The traffic declines are attributed to post-Sept. 11, 2001, security concerns and the economic conditions that have savaged manufacturing, especially in the automotive industry that dominates Detroit and Windsor.
The Morouns agree that traffic will eventually increase, but say another bridge crossing isn't needed until statistics prove it is necessary.
The Detroit-Windsor border, which includes the bridge, a tunnel and ferries, is the busiest in North America and carries a quarter of all U.S. trade with Canada, estimated at about $130 billion.
Thus far, $30 million of an allocated $33 million has been spent on the DRIC study since 2002, and it faces significant bipartisan opposition in the Legislature, led by Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, who calls the effort a “boondoggle.”
Others who have questioned the need, right now, for a new crossing include U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit; U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township; and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.
Coming out in favor of DRIC have been Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and the Detroit Regional Chamber.
In the meantime, there's an air of inevitability about the second Ambassador Bridge span.
Its new ramp, roadway and customs booths on the Windsor side are done and await only the installation of the span itself. The Detroit side is close behind, with the new ramp open in the mornings for traffic onto the old span.
Canadian officials have been critical of a new Ambassador span because of traffic concerns in Windsor, something Blashfield said can be overcome with alternative routes available in the city.
The bridge company's public comments, and use of lobbyists to push their case in Lansing, have drawn the ire of DRIC's backers.
Democrat Steve Tobocman, whose state House district includes the Detroit neighborhood that will be paved over for the DRIC bridge, is outspoken in both his defense of the new crossing effort and in his criticism of Moroun.
“They're very good at parsing their words,” he said in a September interview. “Their arguments don't make sense to me. My question is, why would anyone object to completing the DRIC project?”
Tobocman, who favors government ownership of border infrastructure, also questioned the need to replace the Ambassador Bridge.
“There are plenty of bridges a lot older than 80 years old. We did a lot of wonderful engineering in the 1920s,” he said.
Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626, email@example.com
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