Officials urge Michigan to get DRIC project underway

DETROIT — “Let’s get ‘er done!” Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm couldn’t have been clearer on her opinion of the Detroit River International Crossing project.

Stressing the importance of growing jobs and trade with Canada, Granholm called the project a “no-brainer” and was joined by a number of other business, labor, and government officials last week in an effort to encourage Michigan lawmakers to remove the only remaining hurdle to the DRIC project.

"The DRIC project is critical to Michigan’s future," said Granholm. "Construction of the DRIC will provide an immediate injection of jobs to Michigan and will sustain tens of thousands more jobs through trade with Canada once built, all with minimal cost to the tax payer.

“It’s vital that the Michigan legislature act swiftly to authorize the DRIC and assure that we can continue to efficiently and safely move people and goods across our border."

The $5.3 billion DRIC project is a bi-national effort to provide safe, efficient and secure transportation between the U.S. and Canada across the Detroit River that will meet the long-term needs for the region.

Construction of the bridge is expected to take four to five years and would sit two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. The project just has one more hurdle to clear — legislation that would enable Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership (P3) to build and operate the new bridge.

The plan is that the new bridge will be a publicly owned. Bridge tolls will be used to repay the private developer/financier, much the same way as other toll roads or bridges. House Bill 4961, the P3 legislation, is pending in the House Transportation Committee and is expected to be taken up in April, with a vote expected June 1.

"The Government of Canada is deeply committed to building the new DRIC bridge as soon as possible," said Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer. "The new bridge will provide increased border crossing capacity and system redundancy and will ensure that Detroit-Windsor – North America’s busiest border crossing – can support the continued growth of Canada-U.S. trade."

Granholm and Doer were joined at the offices of the Detroit Regional Chamber by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis; former Michigan Governor and Ambassador to Canada James Blanchard; Steve Biegun, Ford Vice President, International Government Affairs; Mark Gaffney, President of the Michigan Statewide AFL-CIO; Shorty Gleason, President of the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Council; and Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah.

“The DRIC should be implemented immediately by the state legislature,” said Patterson. “If we do not act quickly on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we’ll watch a new border crossing built between Canada and Buffalo (NY)."

According to local media reports, the DRIC project has run into some opposition in Michigan among Republican state senators, especially Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) who has described the bridge as a "boondoggle" for tax payers, citing the dwindling amount of commercial and private traffic between Ontario and southeastern Michigan.

Cropsey has voiced support for Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s plans to twin the privately-owned aging structure. But Moroun is facing tough resistance to his plans and is in the midst of multiple lawsuits involving nearly every level of government.

Patterson said he had talked to Cropsey about his opposition to the DRIC, but to no avail. Patterson said the real fear was that without the DRIC, commercial traffic might shift to the crossing in Buffalo, N.Y.

"It’s the DRIC or New York," Patterson said.

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