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Overlooked U.S.-to-Canada Bridge Approved by Obama, Expected to Create 20,000 Jobs

A rendering of the proposed Detroit-to-Windsor bridge

Another crucial step has been taken in the quest to build a bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Canada. The U.S. State Department has announced a presidential permit to the state of Michigan to accomplish this, signaling the final go-ahead before construction can begin.

Construction of the long desired bridge has largely been held hostage by Manuel Moroun, the owner-operator of the other bridge between the U.S. and Canada, the Ambassador Bridge.

In November, the issue was put to the people in the form of Proposal 6, a ballot initiative that would have mandated a public vote on any international crossings. The initiative was funded by People Should Decide, a group led by Moroun. Proposal 6 was rejected by voters. Now, with the issuance of this permit by the Obama administration, the ball is in Canada’s court. They will begin to hire staff, buy land, and find contractors. The bridge enjoys support from Gov. Rick Snyder who is pleased that it will make a positive impact in a distressed region.

This is all about jobs for today and tomorrow,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a news release. “This is a major construction project that is expected to create 12,000 direct jobs and as many as 31,000 indirect jobs. Getting Michigan-made products to more markets faster will enhance our economic competitiveness in the future and help our state create more jobs.”

Despite the jobs it would create it is likely that progress will be delayed yet again by Moroun who is expected to attempt to block construction. According to sources, the Moroun family’s legal team will question the constitutionality of the Presidential permit.

Lawyers for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun didn’t return phone calls from the Free Press for comment Friday. But earlier in the week, Hamish Hume — a litigator who has worked on constitutional cases and coauthored more than a half dozen Supreme Court briefs — said Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. would file for emergency relief if the new span was granted a permit.

Moroun also could challenge acquisition of land he owns that is needed for the new bridge, though under Michigan law, the state can take land for projects with its eminent domain powers and then argue in court later over the price. Moroun owns a truck freight yard on West Jefferson near Zug Island that the bridge approaches will pass over.

The bridge company already is in the middle of a case in U.S. District Court in Washington. In it, Hume is arguing that the process by which the State Department was authorized to grant a president permit to the rival bridge is not only flawed, it’s unconstitutional.

In court documents, Hume argues that the Ambassador Bridge enjoys a “perpetual and exclusive franchise” recognized and authorized by acts of both Congress and the Canadian Parliament in 1921. To supersede them, it would take another act of both legislatures, he says.

As for the rejoinder that Congress gave the president and, ultimately, the State Department in 1972 to sign off on new international crossings, the bridge company contends it violates the U.S. Constitution.

For almost all parties not named Moroun, the permit is viewed as an exciting, job-creating event. Michigan Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn) called the permit “welcomed news”:

“This bridge will be of an enormous help to the state of Michigan and the industries that call it home—including our valuable automotive sector,” Dingell said. He also urged the Coast Guard to “swiftly consider the state’s pending permit to allow this project to move forward.”

Canadian politicians were equally pleased with the announcement:

One-quarter of all U.S.-Canada trade, which is the world’s largest two-way trading relationship, crosses at Windsor-Detroit,” added Jeff Watson, member of Parliament for Essex. “The Detroit River International Crossing will make a vital contribution to our community, the auto industry, Canada’s economy and the well-being of both countries.”

The magnitude of this bridge has been quite understated, perhaps because of its extended procedural nature. The Washington Post notes that if the jobs numbers being floated around are correct, this bridge could have a similar effect on the economy as the Keystone XL pipeline:

Estimates are that the project will cost $3.5 billion and create about 12,000 jobs directly and 31,000 indirectly (cement, steel and so forth) in the two countries, according toMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R).

The jobs would be split between the United States and Canada, but even at that, the total might be about what the controversial Keystone XL project would produce — depending on which of the wildly varying estimates is correct.

Even better, the Canadians are committed to paying Michigan’s half of the bridge’s construction cost, with future toll revenue paying off that debt.

So, let’s see, you’ve got: (1) a major infrastructure improvement project; (2) increased international trade; (3) bipartisan support; and (4) 20,000 American jobs being created.

To paraphrase Vice President Biden, seems like this is kind of a big deal.


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