We’ll build half and hope for the best

Will the Detroit bridge get built? A Michigan senator says ‘no.’

We’ll build half and hope for the bestDo we need a second bridge linking Windsor and Detroit? The Canadian government says yes, and has already spent $34 million on the project, but politicians on the U.S. side are calling it a bridge to nowhere.

Mark Butler, a spokesperson for Transport Canada, says a new bridge is needed, and a private-public partnership is being explored to build it. The government would own the bridge, while a private company pays for its construction and collects tolls. Ottawa has already spent $34 million on 94 acres of land in Windsor, Ont., for the project, and it plans to buy another 202 acres for construction, which has an estimated cost of $1 billion.

But on the Detroit side of the Detroit River, not a single acre of land has been purchased—and Alan Cropsey, Michigan senate majority floor leader, is calling the project “a boondoggle of amazing proportions.”

He says the extra traffic capacity isn’t needed, because the company that owns the existing Ambassador Bridge is planning a major expansion. He adds that the current infrastructure—which includes a ferry, a train, and traffic tunnels linking the cities—can easily handle anticipated traffic volume. “What on earth is the purpose for putting up a new bridge?” Cropsey says. “The traffic has been going down for the last five or six years. The traffic on the current bridge at most is at 60 per cent capacity.”

Butler counters that the project has been planned for five years, and all the relevant parties are on board, including the governments of Canada, the U.S., Michigan and Ontario. “All indications are that there will be sufficient traffic to make it worthwhile for a private investor.”

But Cropsey says his state will never approve the project. “I think it will end up in a vote in the Michigan legislature eventually. And I think at that time the Michigan taxpayers are going to rise up in revolt,” he says. “With the way our budget situation is here in Michigan, and our crumbling roads—there’s just no way in the world.”

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