Michigan’s Transportation Solution: Make Canada Pay
Our northern neighbor is paying for a new international bridge between Detroit and Canada. Is it too good to be true?
It may sound too good to be true, but state officials insist it isn’t.
Under the deal Michigan inked with Canada, all aspects of the project known as the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) -- from design to construction to maintenance and operations -- would be funded without leaving Michigan on the hook, even if there is a shortage of funds, says Kirk Steudle, Michigan's Department of Transportation director, in an interview with Governing.
The deal is the result of a conflict between
There will be no tolls on the
As an added bonus for
Depending on one’s point of view, the arrangement could be viewed as an innovative way for
(It should be noted that Gov. Rick Snyder did recently get some positive attention from the transportation community for signing legislation that redirects about $100 million in sales tax revenue toward transportation purposes.)
Snyder has called for the construction of the international bridge to address problems facing the existing, privately owned
But billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who owns the
Still, despite the fanfare and controversy surrounding the arrangement, many steps remain before a new bridge is actually erected.
First, an authority tasked with soliciting bids for the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the bridge has to be formed. Then, those positions need to be filled. After that, the authority will have to determine how, exactly, a deal would be structured with a private partner. "In either case,
The authority would also need to determine whether the private partner would just build the bridge, or whether it would build the toll plazas and customs facilities too. And because of all those questions, it's unclear when work could actually begin on the project.
Also on the checklist: Environmental reviews for the project as well as the design, engineering and construction. The state also doesn't have a presidential permit issued by the U.S. State Department for the project. That's a necessity of any new international border crossing, though it's expected to come through soon given the administration’s support for the effort.
Meanwhile, the project could face legal challenges. Robert Sedler, a law professor and consultant to the Ambassador Bridge ownership, penned a recent column in the Detroit Free Press questioning the legality of the deal and saying only the state Legislature has the power to commit resources to such a large project.
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