General Motors has had to temporarily close its Flint Truck Assembly plant because of a lack of parts. Trucks are being diverted to Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, but that’s snarling up the highways.
Yesterday afternoon, there were reports that trucks waiting to use the Ambassador Bridge were backed up for miles on I-75, stacked up on the overpass over the smoky and smelly Rouge.
This couldn’t be helped. The eighty-year-old, privately owned Ambassador was the only alternative. Technically, that bridge is not supposed to allow trucks carrying hazardous materials to cross.
But Ambassador Bridge management said they were waving that rule for the duration of the emergency. Given the situation, it is hard to to see what else they could do. For there simply is no backup.
After this, it ought to be very clear that we need another bridge, right now. The bad weather that closed the Blue Water Bridge wasn’t a one-time anomaly. This is what happens in winter in Canada, a lot.
Truck traffic is going to steadily get heavier and heavier, too. According to the Journal of Commerce Online, truck traffic over the Ambassador Bridge is up 18 percent this year. Traffic over the Blue Water Bridge is up 9 percent. It’s up more than ten percent in Buffalo.
Everyone knows we need a new bridge, and right now, there’s a shovel-ready project ready to go: The Detroit International River Crossing bridge, which would be built about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. As I’ve noted many times before, virtually everyone wants this backup span except two groups of people.
The Moroun family, who own the Ambassador Bridge, and don’t want anyone infringing on their monopoly, and the leadership of the Michigan state senate, many of whose members have taken Moroun money in the form of campaign or other contributions.
Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop once again refused to allow a vote on a new bridge.
Some members questioned whether a new bridge is really necessary. Others said if a new bridge is to be built, let Moroun build another private one with his money, as he has indicated he wants to do.
But Canada has flatly said that’s something it will not allow, because of reasons involving highway congestion and environmental factors. Already, people on both sides of the border, including State Representative Rashida Tlaib, have complained about truck exhaust.
Canada wants the DRIC bridge, and that nation’s transportation minister went to Lansing this week to again reaffirm that Canada will cover Michigan’s costs of building the bridge.
Michigan‘s Legislature is back in session today to clean up a bunch of mainly procedural issues. Many of the lawmakers resent being there, and want to start their holiday.
Yet as futile as what I am about to say may be, this would be a golden opportunity to hear the wakeup call this storm has sent, and authorize moving forward on a new bridge.
Otherwise, eventually, our economy is going to suffer. And Michigan’s had enough of that in the last ten years to last a lifetime.