DETROIT -- The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that voters should decide whether to build any new bridges or tunnels to Canada, one of several amendments to the Michigan Constitution proposed for the Nov. 6 ballot.
In a majority opinion written by Justice Brian K. Zahra, the court found that the bridge/tunnel construction measure, along with ballot issues related to collective bargaining and tax increases, would not "add to, delete from, or change" wording in the constitution, nor would they prevent existing provisions from being carried out.
The ruling means the state's voters will decide whether a new bridge across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, will be built.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, and many business interests favor the project, but it has failed to gain approval in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The Snyder administration evaded legislative approval of project funding by arranging for Canada to fully finance the project, with Michigan's $550 million share of the cost to be recouped by tolls collected on the Ontario side.
As proposed, the new bridge would connect to I-75 in Detroit's Delray neighborhood, just north of the River Rouge, and be tied into Ontario Highway 401 by a new expressway on the Windsor side.
Owners of the 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge, who say they would suffer a competitive disadvantage if the new bridge were built, have sponsored a statewide television ad blitz against it and lobbied heavily in the Michigan Legislature.
The Detroit International Bridge Co. instead has stated a desire to build a second span parallel to the existing bridge, which now is the only Detroit border crossing suitable for large trucks.
The Michigan Department of Transportation in recent years has spent $230 million to build new ramps and otherwise reconfigure the Ambassador's junction with I-75 and I-96 south of downtown Detroit to take border traffic off neighborhood streets.
One of the other court-approved constitutional amendments would strengthen collective-bargaining rights, while the third would require a legislative supermajority to raise state taxes.
The high court rejected a fourth measure that would have authorized construction of eight more casinos in Michigan.
Justices disqualified the casino proposal because it failed to disclose that it would weaken the state Liquor Control Commission's authority.
Opponents challenged the proposed initiatives in court after the State Board of Canvassers repeatedly deadlocked on partisan lines over whether to place the measures on the ballot.