Nobody likes a freeloader. Embarrassingly, in the matter of the sorely needed new bridge over the Detroit River, there is a freeloader in the house: the U.S. government.
Business, industry, and the economies of Michigan, Ohio, and Canada have this in common: All need a new bridge over what is one of the most economically important border crossings in the world. Every month, billions of dollars’ worth of heavy manufacturing components cross the border between Detroit and Windsor, Ont.
The only game in town is the ancient Ambassador Bridge, which was built during Prohibition. It is neither adequate for today’s trucks nor licensed to carry hazardous materials.
After years in which the Michigan Legislature disgracefully failed to act on a bridge, Gov. Rick Snyder found a legal way to bypass lawmakers and make an agreement with Canada. Our northern neighbor even decided to cover Michigan’s estimated $550 million in costs to build the bridge, with the understanding that the money would be repaid from the state’s share of toll revenue.
But there’s a final sticking point: Because this is traffic between two nations, a customs and immigration plaza is needed. That will cost $250 million.
Normally, when a new border crossing is needed, the president requests an appropriation, and Congress votes the cash. Not this time: Washington evidently wants Ottawa to pay for our customs plaza too.
This prompted the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper to complain that Canada should have “held on to Fort Detroit until the end of the War of 1812.” Though no final decision has been made, Canada’s transportation minister hinted last week that his country considers the bridge to be so important that, if necessary, Canada would pay that cost too.
That shouldn’t happen. Nobody thinks America should waste taxpayers’ dollars, but it would be disgraceful if the world’s last remaining superpower relies on a much smaller nation to pay for our immigration facilities.
Roy Norton, until recently Canada’s consul general in Detroit, said that “we think our paying for 15/16ths of this project should be good enough.” He’s right.