PM would consider private international bridges; Contradicts Transport Canada policy

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — Prime Minister Paul Martin may be the boss of Canada’s ruling party for just another day. But he says if he’s given a new term, he won’t oppose private interests having control of future border crossings between Canada and the U.S.

During a campaign stop in Niagara Falls, Ont. last week, Martin said he would consider giving the green light to a second private Can-Am bridge in the Fort Erie, Ont.-Buffalo, N.Y. region, provided the host communities have a role in the planning and review process, the Buffalo News reported.

To further his point, Martin cited the success of the only privately owned and operated international bridge in his hometown of Windsor, Ont. “The precedent is there. It has been done before,” Martin told the newspaper.

In an odd announcement, PM says the Peace Bridge may
not be the only game in town if he’s still boss

Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ont., has for years proposed building a $250 million truck-only crossing along the International Railroad Bridge, about two miles north of the Peace Bridge.

Company spokesperson Dan Stamper told the Buffalo News that he was encouraged by Martin’s comments.

No wonder. Just last month, the company was actually snubbed by Martin’s government — for the second time — over its plans to build a crossing in Fort Erie.

Transport Canada announced it would not accept the company’s bid for a new bridge. Repeating similar claims it made in 2004, the government stated that a law on the books since 1923 thwarts any plans of a privately owned secondary international border crossing. At the time, Transport Minister Jean-Claude Lapierre confirmed the validity of the Peace Bridge Authority’s exclusive right to operate any vehicle bridge within 10 km of the existing crossing.

Peace Bridge officials said they were puzzled with Martin’s comments, considering his own government’s consistent opposition to the plan and its support for a new publicly operated Peace Bridge span, also announced last month.

A Peace Bridge Authority executive suggested that Martin “got his bridges mixed up.”

Meanwhile, Martin’s comments may add momentum to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun’s drive to seize control of a new bridge crossing across the Detroit River.

Moroun, a Detroit trucking mogul who heads Detroit International Bridge Co., has been buying land on both sides of the border near the site where a new bridge is supposed to be built.

Sources tell Today’s Trucking that Moroun is in the process of strategically securing land with specifically identified easements for bridge piers and overhead rights for a bridge.

Last year, Moroun made a deal for operating control of the Port of Detroit, which also contains a clause that could possibly give him operating rights to a new bridge.

— with files from the Buffalo News

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