There’s a song that’s been out a while in the United States by one Cledus T. Judd, called “Waitin’ on Obama.” It’s a lament about high expectations and dashed hopes. I readily admit there are times I lament...
There’s a song that’s been out a while in the United States by one Cledus T. Judd, called “Waitin’ on Obama.” It’s a lament about high expectations and dashed hopes. I readily admit there are times I lament what I perceive to be our federal and provincial regulators “Waitin’ on Obama” before taking positions or moving forward on certain transportation matters.
I just think we have something more to offer to the debate on certain trucking regulations by leading than by following. There are times when we can and we should punch above our weight. One project where Canada has punched above is weight is with regard to the new international bridge crossing at Windsor-Detroit. I commend our federal government for its leadership on this key infrastructure project which is important not only for Canada’s economy, but equally so for the US economy. Yet, we still find ourselves “Waitin’ on Obama.”
The Windsor-Detroit International Crossing is dubbed “the most important international land crossing in North America” in the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2014 “in recognition that an efficient and secure corridor is essential to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, and Canada’s economy more broadly.”
By now you know the story. After years of stops and starts, and because you can’t build half a bridge (unless you want a diving board over the Detroit River), the Government of Canada took the bold step of offering to pay Michigan’s share of the bridge construction and land acquisition costs – estimated at around $2 billion – thus removing a major political roadblock in the state legislature.
In 2012, newly-elected Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, despite opposition from some in his own government and a campaign by the Ambassador Bridge owners, won a referendum in support of the new bridge. In June 2012 a governance agreement between the Government of Canada and the State of Michigan was signed and enacting legislation was passed in December that year. I was proud to be in attendance at the signing ceremony. I recall the federal US Secretary of Transport, Ray LaHood, also participated and spoke in glowing terms on behalf of the Obama Administration in support of the project. In April 2013, what many of us thought was the last major stumbling block – the Presidential permit – was issued for the project.
Perhaps we should have known better. There have been more red lights on this project than on Huron Church Road. Now, it seems, the administration can’t come up with the $250 million needed to construct the US Customs plaza on the US side of the new bridge.
The President’s $4-trillion budget for 2015, which he sent to Congress in March, didn’t include a penny for the Customs plaza. So, here we are “Waitin’ on Obama” again.
Undaunted, but no doubt frustrated, the Canadian government is providing $631 million over two years on a cash basis to advance the construction of the new crossing, of which Economic Action Plan 2014 proposes to provide $470 million over two years to support necessary procurement and project delivery activities. It should also be noted that construction of the connecting highway – a joint project of the Ontario and federal governments – to the new bridge has been underway for a couple of years now. The Herb Gray Parkway is expected to be open to traffic in late 2014.
The “other” major infrastructure project of joint interest to both Canada and the United States is the Keystone XL pipeline. As Mr. Judd’s song goes: ”There’s a long line waitin’ on Obama.” Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too much longer and that the answer on both of these essential projects is affirmative.