Legislation was recently introduced in the Michigan Senate to authorize the New International Trade Crossing project between Detroit and Canada. The bridge plan, formerly known as the Detroit River International Crossing, is not new to the Legislature. And while the plan has been modified, I still have serious reservations about this complex proposal. The most critical question is: will taxpayer dollars be spent to build the new bridge?
In May 2010, legislation narrowly passed the House despite substantial unanswered questions. I voted against that bill because my concerns were never resolved, and the measure died in the Senate for the same reasons.
Bridge proponents note that Canada has offered to cover the state’s cost of $550 million for the new crossing, and Gov. Snyder has received an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation to count those funds toward meeting the state’s highway funding match requirement.
Beyond this specific proposal, I believe Michigan must continue to fight for our fair share of federal highway funds. I am extremely concerned with the state of our roads and bridges. It is about jobs, public safety and spending accountability.
Transportation infrastructure projects help ensure safe roads and employ thousands of Michigan workers. However, this process requires us to look at how we are spending the dollars we receive and how to improve the system for the long term.
Senate Bill 410 is one of the measures for the new proposal and it would:
- Prohibit the state from expending any state funds on this project, including construction of the bridge, interchange and toll plaza;
- Allow a private entity to build their own bridge;
- Prohibit the new authority from incurring any debt or liability on behalf of the state; and
- Enable legislative oversight on activities of the authority.
Even with those stipulations, I still have many unanswered questions, such as: Would there be a fair and open process to allow private companies to competitive bid on building the bridge? Are we efficiently using all of the customs gates now, and if not, will we make improvements for this new crossing? And will Michigan taxpayers be on the hook for the cost of the bridge if toll revenues fail to meet projections and there is a default on payments?
Efficient trade across our borders is one key to Michigan’s economic recovery, especially considering that surface transportation trade between the U.S. and Canada totaled $471 billion in 2010.
It is our responsibility as legislators to balance the need to encourage increased trade and ensuring Michigan taxpayers are not burdened with millions of dollars in additional debt.
One thing I can definitively tell my constituents: I will not support a new international bridge if any state funds are used for its construction. Period.
Darwin L. Booher
State Senator – 35th District