June 15, 2010
Well, there has been a lot of discussion about the merits of
building a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada here in Southeast Michigan in
the vicinity of Zug Island. The Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) has
evoked a great deal of debate among businesses, residents, and legislators on
both sides of the border. From what I can tell, the opinion seems to be heavily
in favor of building the bridge in most circles save maybe the most important
one – the Michigan Senate. The Big 4 – Bing, Ficano, Gielegham, and Patterson
(in alphabetical order) – the car companies, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and
a host of other companies and agencies support construction of the new bridge.
Why the debate? Well the discussion has centered around a
couple of issues:
Why do we need a new bridge? Traffic is down
- Why not let the private sector, the Ambassador
Bridge Company, build the bridge?
Let’s take a look at these issues. First of all, traffic is
down right now, but the 2010 numbers are higher than the 2009 numbers and still
climbing. It is dangerous to make need assessments for a new structure that
will be built to be there for 100 years based on only a few years of data. We
have a rich inventory of traffic counts on the bridge and tunnels in this
region going back several decades. It reads like the stock market – if you look
at any 20-year period – traffic is up, but if you look at it in three-to-five-year
increments, you can see considerable variability in the information.
Conclusion – History tells us that traffic will rebound and
increase over the expected life span of the bridge.
However, you just don’t build a bridge based on the volume
of traffic that crosses over it – or at least you shouldn’t in my opinion.
There are other considerations. Redundancy is one issue that I have heard very
little discussion about. It is widely known that the Ambassador Bridge carries
more goods than any other crossing between the US and Canada. In a typical year,
over $100 billion in goods crosses between the US and Canada. No one wants to
talk about terrorism or major incidents, but unfortunately, they are a fact of
life that we must be prepare for today. Do you think it is worth an investment
of about $3 billion to build an additional bridge to protect the kind of
investment that supports over 220,000 jobs in Michigan? I do.
Another consideration is that the existing Ambassador Bridge
is more than 80 years old and in need of rehabilitation in the coming years.
This fact is identified in the environmental document completed by the
Ambassador Bridge Company found on their Web site. This is why they have also
recommended building an additional bridge next to the current Ambassador
Bridge. Once constructed, the existing bridge would be taken out of service and
used as a service road. This again comes from the environmental document
written by the Ambassador Bridge Company. SEMCOG supports the construction of
the parallel bridge, however, to date, the Ambassador Bridge Company has been
unable to obtain a permit either in the U.S. or Canada to build the twin – and
the clock is ticking.
The solution is obvious and simple to me – we need an
additional bridge in the future to handle additional capacity that can be
anticipated to occur over the useful life of the structure and to secure the
investment and jobs that it brings Michigan and Southeast Michigan. It should
be built as quickly as possible. For our legislature to not see this and act on
it immediately is extremely shortsighted. In addition, the Ambassador Bridge Company
should continue working to secure the needed approvals to replace the existing,
aging Ambassador Bridge with a new one. We need them both and we need them now!
Let’s stop arguing over it and start building them one at a time!