Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Defeat of Proposition 6 in Michigan will clear way for new Detroit, Windsor bridge

Proposal 6 would have required Michigan residents to vote on any new international crossing to be built between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The measure was defeated by more than 60%.
Proposal 6 was supported by billionaire Matty Moroun who owns the sole existing bridge, the Ambassador Bridge. The existing bridge is already 83 years old. Moroun spent more than $30 million on advertising to promote voter support for the proposal. If the proposal had passed the requirement for a referendum on any new crossing would become part of the state constitution.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was pleased with the results. From India, where he is on a trade mission, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the decision:
"We're very pleased to see the support of the people of Michigan for the new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, which is very important to the economies of both our countries. I look forward, in particular, to working with [President Barack Obama] on the Beyond the Border initiative, which is obviously very important for the opportunities for Canadians and Americans going forward."
The Canadian minister of transport, Denis Lebel, also applauded the defeat of the proposition: Denis Lebel, minister of transport, infrastructure and communities, also praised the result:
"The defeat of Proposition 6 clears the way for the construction of the new bridge across the Detroit River. This is good news for travellers, workers and industry on both sides of the border, who will benefit from the new publicly owned bridge.The new bridge will attract new investments and business opportunities to boost our local and national economies, and will result in much needed jobs for Ontario and Michigan communities.The new crossing will also increase border capacity to handle future trade and travel growth, and will be built with the security of both our countries in mind."
deal for a new bridge was negotiated back in June of this year. Canada will foot the bill for Michigan's $550 million share of the new one billion dollar publicly owned bridge.
The People Should Decide Group has insisted that Michigan taxpayers will end up paying something for a new bridge. No doubt they will have to pay something for facilities at the end of the bridge where vehicles depart and enter the U.S. Moroun will probably continue to fight against construction of the new bridge in the courts. No doubt competition will force him to lower tolls and with a bridge that is over 80 years old he will also face steep costs of repair to keep the bridge safe.
The bridge is probably a marvelous cash cow for Moroun. In 2010, almost 29,000 trucks crossed the bridge each day. More than 25% of U.S. Canada trade passes over the bridge. Chrysler builds minivans in Windsor Ontario. The company moves thousands of cars and truck across the border and every day has more than 1,600 customs entries. The New Democratic Party MP for Windsor West Brian Masse said that Moroun could spend $30 million to promote opposition to the new bridge showed that he kept tolls too high. Masse said:
"The actual government on the Canadian side needs to actually start regulating their toll rates because we have the highest toll rates in Ontario for a bridge that has the highest volumes. I can't understand why we continue to allow that situation to exist when it's clear that volume should actually dictate price, and we should actually be reducing the rates."
The Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, has spoken out against Proposition 6. Doer said:
"Two bridges are better than one, for two-way trade, for security, for reliability. When you look at the proposal that the prime minister and the governor of Michigan came forward with, it cuts out a lot of traffic lights in Windsor. So that's good for the environment and for traffic on our side of the border.And it's got the support of all the Great Lakes states and provinces."
Both Chambers of Commerce and also some unions support a new bridge. Both groups hope the bridge will help promote trade and new jobs.Windsor Ontario has the highest unemployment rate in Canada.
Sandy Baruah, who is the CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce said that the result sends a clear message from the citizens of Michigan.
"Matty Moroun and the Ambassador Bridge Company ran an entire campaign and spent $31-plus million saying 'the People Should Decide.' Now, it'll be up to them to determine if they're going to honour that word — the people have clearly decided that they reject that proposal and that they want this bridge."
Perhaps, it is time for Moroun to retire with his billions. However, no doubt he will have a few more years without competition.

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