The bridge is wearing out. A U.S. safety inspection report released almost a year ago found the main span in “poor condition,” with cracked, unsound concrete that has chipped away to expose, as the Windsor Star reported, “significantly corroded reinforcing steel.”
When that became public, the Ambassador Bridge company announced that a multi-million dollar repair project would begin in July. But there are conflicting reports as to whether work has started. The bridge company really wants to build a new bridge next to the old one. But the government of Canada has flatly said no, and the United States is also refusing to issue the necessary permits.
There are serious environmental and traffic flow reasons why twinning the Ambassador Bridge would be a terrible idea. Everyone is firmly against it.
Everyone, that is, except the Moroun family, and those to whom they give money. There is an alternative that is favored by everyone from the Government of Canada to Governor Jennifer Granholm, from Oakland County’s L. Brooks Patterson to Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. It is a proposed new internationally owned and operated bridge two miles downriver from the Ambassador.
This project would be known as DRIC, for Detroit International River Crossing. Private investors could invest in DRIC, but it would be run by and for both countries. During the years of construction, it would employ up to ten thousand workers.
Canada wants and needs this bridge so badly that their government has offered to pay for Michigan’s share of the expenses -- which we would pay back later, out of toll money.
The project won house approval earlier this year, and should have met with unanimous approval in the state senate -- but it has been stalled. The Moroun family has deep pockets.
They’ve given lavishly to politicians, and they expect something in return. Yesterday, lame-duck Majority Leader Mike Bishop said he thought it was unlikely that the Senate would vote on DRIC anytime this year. That breaks a promise he made.
Bishop, who opposes DRIC, promised an up-or-down vote on the bridge in May. Now, he says he’s going back on his word because the Department of Transportation took too long to get senators the information they needed.
Without openly calling the senator a liar, most independent observers said that just wasn’t true. Business interests other than the Morouns are unhappy. Sarah Hubbard of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce thinks there’s a strong possibility the legislation would be acceptable to the senate by the end of the year. Both sides, in fact, have been negotiating in good faith.
If DRIC isn’t built, Detroit will lose even more jobs and business, something I thought the Republican Party was against. There is still hope. Bishop tried to block the smoking ban, too, but his own caucus overruled him. For Michigan’s sake, this would be an ideal time for them to do so again.