DETROIT -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he's joining Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and others today for an announcement and signing ceremony that Canadian media said will involve construction of a second bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Mr. Snyder's office said in a statement that the announcement is "of significant economic importance to Michigan and Canada" but declined comment on whether it involves a deal for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.
According to his Web site, though, the governor's office says there will be a "special announcement" that constituents can "watch live" at 12:45 p.m. and again at 2:45 p.m.
Mr. Snyder has been promoting plans for a Canadian-funded second span in addition to the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, now the only bridge crossing the Detroit River between the cities.
The Ambassador Bridge's owners have fiercely opposed the proposal and seek to build a second span of their own.
The Windsor Star said Prime Minister Harper and Mr. Snyder have confirmed they will be in Windsor today to announce plans for the new $1 billion government-backed bridge. The pair are to meet with reporters shortly after noon, when they are scheduled to release plans to build the long-awaited Detroit River International Crossing bridge, the Windsor Star said. They are to be joined by Canada's transport minister, Denis Lebel, and Mr. LaHood.
The contingent then is to cross the Detroit River for a signing ceremony to be held at the Cobo Center at 3 p.m. They are to be joined during that event by foreign affairs minister John Baird, Canada's ambassador to the United States Gary Doer, U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, and other high-profile business leaders.
The announcement would culminate 10 years of political wrangling and controversy surrounding the bridge project. It was first touted by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien in September, 2002, during a visit to Windsor, when he pledged solutions to end gridlock on North America's busiest trade border crossing within 90 days, the Star reported.
Construction of the bridge, once started, will employ "thousands" in both direct and indirect jobs on both sides of the border, according to government officials connected to the project, a report said.
It is anticipated to take at least a year for construction on the bridge project to start.
Construction is expected to cost $1 billion, with an additional $2 billion for plazas and new feeder roads connected to the crossing that will link Brighton Beach on the Canadian side to the community of Delray on the U.S. side, just north of Zug Island.
The bridge, to be jointly owned by the U.S. and Canadian governments, is expected to have the Canadian government paying Michigan's $550 million share of the cost and recovering that money from bridge tolls.
The Toronto Sun newspaper said the border crossing is crucial for many businesses in southwestern Ontario that export to the United States, said Andy Mavrokefalos, chairman of the London, Ont., Canada, Region Manufacturing Council. "About 25 percent of all our trade with the U.S. goes through that area, and any sort of unclogging would help us out," he told the Sun.
Mathew Wilson, a vice president with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, called the deal an important milestone.
Mr. Wilson predicted that it could take until 2020 before the Detroit River International Crossing is built.
"I've attended four of these new bridge announcements in Windsor, and we still don't have a bridge. … We've talked about this for decades," he told the newspaper.
The project is scheduled to be completed in 2014.