Governor Rick Snyder announced a deal with Canada to pursue a public span across the Detroit River about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. Canadian authorities have agreed to front all of the money needed for both sides of the project and to collect tolls as repayment. Once the monetary obligation is fulfilled, Michigan and Canada would split tolls evenly, and Canada assumes all the risk if the tolls aren’t enough to keep regular payments going to the Canadian project financiers.
However, it seems that Matty Maroun doesn’t want any competition in the international trade crossing business. His newest play in attempting to prevent a second bridge from being built where the Canadians want it instead of next to the Ambassador Bridge where he wants it is to begin a petition drive to place a bridge referendum on the November ballot.
The jist of the main referendum is amend the state constitution to require a vote both statewide and in the municipality the proposed bridge or tunnel would be built. It is also written in a fashion to include any new bridge or tunnel that was not in operation as of January 1 of this year, which could feasibly require a vote for any new bridge construction, not just this one.
I fully believe that the people of Michigan should get a say as to whether or not this bridge becomes a reality. I also believe that the people of Michigan will make the right decision once they are presented with the facts of the situation instead of the facts according to Matty Maroun.
As I already mentioned, no taxpayer here in Michigan is on the hook for any financing of this public bridge. If too few tolls are collected, or a default on loan repayment occurs, the Canadians are the ones who will have to come up with the hard answers. Sure, we won’t see any of the tolls collected for several decades, but the bridge will stand for many years after the loans are repaid.
However, Maroun purchased thousands of dollars in advertising when the bridge was first proposed to make Michiganders believe that if loans defaulted, the taxpayers were the ones who would be answering to the collections agencies. No doubt he will return to the same rhetoric as the final details of the agreement are hashed out.
This is by no means the end of the headaches that Maroun could cause for Michigan, Canada, and even our federal government as they plan to move forward with the bridge. The planned approach for the new bridge goes over a corner of truck terminal property Maroun owns on the Yellow Freight site on West Jefferson. Maroun certainly has the money and the lawyers to ensure that the corner is not ceded without a fight.
Also, Maroun’s corporate entities have filed suit in Canada and the U.S. challenging parts of the proposed new bridge. One only has to look back to 2004 and the Gateway Project to see how much of a hassle for road construction Maroun can cause when they don’t get their way.
Maroun has also complained that a public span will unfairly compete with his Ambassador Bridge, and the only way to prevent that is to allow him to build and control the new span according to his plan. The Canadians want no part of his plan as it will increase congestion in downtown Windsor, which they are trying to relieve by connecting the new span directly to their 401 expressway. So, unless Maroun plans to build a bridge that stops at the Canadian border somewhere in the middle of the Detroit River, he should at the very least rethink his proposed location for the private bridge he so desires.
Instead of focusing on what he can’t control, such as where the Canadian government wants the bridge built, Maroun should focus on what he can control. He could submit a bid to be the construction company that handles the construction of the public bridge. He could use the many thousands of dollars he is sinking into disinformation campaigns to fix up Michigan Central Depot or to tear down the many abandoned eyesores he owns all over the city.
Most of all, Matty Maroun should step aside and stop trying to limit Michigan’s economic growth to ensure the growth of his own pocketbook. If he doesn’t, we may be reading about the opening of a new international trade crossing in Buffalo, New York where his money and opinion will amount to absolutely nothing.