Burning Bridges? U.S. Businessman in International Dispute Over Detroit Bridge

U.S. Trucking Tycoon and Canada in Bridge Dispute

The proposed DRIC, a 1.8-mile, six-lane bridge, is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $2 billion. A study commissioned by the Michigan Department of Transportation and released in May estimated that the DRIC would generate revenues of close to $3 billion from passenger cars and $11 billion from commercial vehicle traffic over a 50-year period.

In April, Canada agreed to pitch in an additional $550 million for the project. The money would be re-paid in bridge tolls, according to Canadian officials.

"This project will create thousands of jobs in Southwestern Ontario and in Michigan," James Kusie, a spokesman for Canadian Transportation Minister John Baird, told ABC News in an e-mail. "That's why this Government is stepping up now to move this project forward."

Supporters of the DRIC project say those jobs will be welcome in Michigan, whose unemployment rate stood at 13.1 percent in June.

"This crossing has a significant impact on the entire region, both in Canada and the United States, which is why virtually every business that ships goods in Michigan has been asking for a new border crossing and additional capacity and more choices at the border," Bill Shreck, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, told ABC News.

But the Detroit International Bridge Company fiercely opposes the bill, saying it would unfairly compete with the Ambassador Bridge and become a liability to taxpayers.

"It's our asset. We have billions of dollars invested in it," Stamper said. "We feel obligated to it, and we have an obligation to make sure that it's safe, secure and efficient, and we've done that throughout our history."

Shreck said that while the state is not against the Ambassador Bridge span proposal, it won't solve the traffic problems on the border.

"Basically, they're trying to protect that income at the expense of the optimal operation of the border crossing," Shreck said, adding that if the DRIC plan is approved, it could complement the Ambassador Bridge and ease the traffic burden.

The existing crossing sees more than 8,000 trucks and 68,000 travelers daily and handles U.S.-Canada trade totaling $130 billion per year, according to officials.

Further complicating the issue is that, presently, the Detroit International Bridge Company does not have the required approvals begin building its proposed Ambassador twin span – an issue which Stamper dismissed as "red tape."

In March, the U.S. Coast Guard terminated the bridge application until the company could prove ownership of the span property, among other stipulations, and the project still requires a final environmental assessment from Canadian officials. The company is free to re-submit its Coast Guard application once it resolves the property issues.

"The DRIC project is the only proposal that has received environmental clearances in both Canada and the United States and has the support of the mayors, communities, private sector users and governments in both countries," Kusie said.

Not dissuaded, Stamper said the Detroit International Bridge Company plans to move ahead on its Ambassador twin span project, regardless of the DRIC vote in the Michigan Senate.

"We don't think we're doing anything that we don't already have a right to do and expect to do, and in fact, have an obligation to do," Stamper said. "Is it greed to invest our own money and hope for and take the risk in our own return? I don't think that's greed. I think that's the American way."

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