Debate is continuing over whether there should be a new bridge over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor Ontario. Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry says don't look now, but the Canadian government has made up its mind.
Sometimes it may seem as the battle of the budget is the only thing that's been going on in Lansing. That's not quite true. For months, there's been a debate over whether to support a plan to clone the Ambassador Bridge by allowing its owner, businessman Matty Moroun, to build a second span next to it.
The alternative is to build a second bridge about a mile further south, a bridge that would be internationally owned by a consortium that would include both nations and a group of private investors. The group behind this proposal is called the Detroit River International Crossing Project, or DRIC.
Ambassdor Bridge supporters, such as State Senator Alan Cropsey of DeWitt, say that government can't afford to tie up money in a new bridge, especially when a private investor is willing to pay for it. In a nation founded on private enterprise, there is no excuse for socialism when the market can handle the need.
Supporters of the DRIC bridge include much of the state's top political leadership, from Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr, to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a conservative Republican best known for his pro-growth, business-friendly policies.
Generally, these folks agree that private enterprise is a great thing. But they say this is different. This is an international border crossing, which needs to be subject to the rules, regulations and safeguards of both nations -- especially in an age of terrorism.
They say there are already huge security concerns about the Ambassador Bridge now. Putting a second bridge next to it would merely give any terrorist a more tempting target.
As far as funding goes, economists say either group would likely ask for the authority to issue bonds to pay for the bridge.
But while these arguments have been going on, both sides seem to have missed something big: The competition is really over. Supporters of the DRIC bridge have won. Eventually, it will be built, hopefully sooner rather than later. What the legislature ought to do now is help make the new bridge a reality that will boost the economies of both nations.
Why am I saying this is over? Because although we have somehow not noticed, the government of Canada has made up its mind. Canada wants the internationally owned bridge. Michael Wilson, Ottawa's ambassador to Washington, says so.
He recently said his government was convinced this was the right way to go and was delighted by the choice of the site. Then, this week, the Canadian government bought 94 acres of land in Windsor for the bridge. We mostly ignored this.
By the way, Ottawa has denied Mr. Moroun any permits to build a new bridge. Perhaps he and his supporters think Canada will change its mind. I have news for them.
I've covered politics in Canada. If there is one thing Ottawa is sensitive about, it is being pushed around by Washington.
They aren't changing their mind on this. Now, I guess Mr. Moroun could build a bridge that stuck half way out over the river.
That might make an interesting sight. But I am afraid it would be an awfully expensive piece of modern art.