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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2011

Bridging the gap

What’s at stake in the debate over building a public-private bridge over the Detroit River couldn’t be more clear.

The new bridge, known as the New International Trade Crossing, would create more than 10,000 good-paying jobs for four or five years. It would mean enhanced national and economic security, since more trade passes over the aging Ambassador Bridge than at any other border crossing between the United States and Canada.

Michigan taxpayers are at no financial risk. Canada has offered to cover the state’s costs of building the bridge, up to $550 million.

The Obama Administration says Michigan can use that Canadian money as a match to get badly needed federal highway funds. In all, Michigan stands to lose $2 billion if it doesn’t authorize the bridge, which is supported by a wide bipartisan coalition and all major automakers.

Yet incredibly, some Michigan lawmakers still oppose the new bridge. Their rejection becomes more understandable when you realize that many of them have taken massive campaign contributions from the Moroun family, which owns the Ambassador Bridge.

The Morouns want to preserve their monopoly control over the nation’s most important border crossing. They are doing everything they can to hang onto it, from giving money to lawmakers to running fraudulent TV commercials.

This is not in the public interest, Gov. Rick Snyder and state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R., Monroe) agree. They are leading the fight for the new crossing — which, although it would be operated by the U.S. and Canadian governments, would be built by private enterprise through competitive bids.

Sadly, the governor and Senate leader have had to postpone a vote on the proposal until fall, while they struggle to find a majority of lawmakers who are willing to do the right thing.

Last year, the Ohio Senate voted unanimously to support a new Detroit River bridge. Michigan voters should tell their representatives in both houses of the Legislature that they expect the same.

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