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Published: 11/24/2012

Mich. Gov. Snyder headed to Toronto conference to discuss bridge

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is returning to Canada to discuss the plans for a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, nearly six months after signing a deal to build the Canadian-financed span and three weeks after getting a vote of confidence from Michigan residents.

The Republican governor is set to talk Monday in Toronto about the New International Trade Crossing, Snyder spokesman Sara Wurfel said.

He’ll be at a conference on public-private partnerships and is expected to announce a pact with Great Lakes governors on a virtual Canada trade office and to meet with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Voters rejected a proposal backed by Ambassador Bridge owner and billionaire Manuel Moroun to give Michigan residents a say on whether state funds could be used to build international border crossings.

Mr. Moroun and his allies spent millions on advertising, court challenges, and other efforts aimed at obstructing the competing bridge. Hurdles still remain to building a new bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge.

Lawsuits are expected to be filed challenging Mr. Snyder’s authority to reach the agreement with Canada without a state statute and they cite a 1920s congressional act that gave exclusive franchise of that stretch of the Detroit River to the Ambassador’s private owners, said John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University.

Moroun spokesman Mickey Blashfield said earlier this month that he doesn’t believe state officials’ actions have been credible.

Mr. Mogk said he expects legal arguments to follow, including one that cites another congressional resolution “that could be interpreted to give the executive branch the authority to build another crossing.”

“There’s doubt in the minds of many that the franchise that was granted to the [Ambassador] bridge company that originally built the bridge was exclusive,” Mr. Mogk said.

A competing bridge would cut into toll profits enjoyed solely by Mr. Moroun for years.

The Moroun camp has said his plan to double the more than 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge would cost less to build and would be financed with private dollars.

His Detroit International Bridge Co. still is waiting on permits from the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian agencies to move forward with the project.

Mr. Mogk said passage of the ballot proposal would have strengthened Mr. Moroun’s arguments.

Construction of the bridge is estimated to cost about $950 million, according to the New International Trade Crossing Web site.

Canada has promised to take on Michigan’s $550 million portion with revenue from future tolls paying off the debt.

The total cost of the bridge would be $3.5 billion, including work on freeway interchanges, customs plazas in both countries, and infrastructure work.



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