New International Trade Crossing Provides a Bridge to Michigan’s Economic Prosperity

Michigan’s future is filled with promise. With a renewed sense of determination and optimism, Michiganders are pulling together to restore the Great Lakes State’s economic vigor, create jobs for families and ensure exciting opportunities for the next generation.

But Michigan’s ability to achieve this level of prosperity depends in large part on its capacity to compete on the global economic stage. Modern, reliable infrastructure that allows us to access foreign markets is essential if we are to reap the unlimited benefits of exporting our abundant agricultural and manufactured products.

That’s why on June 15 Gov. Rick Snyder signed an agreement with Canada that lays the foundation for the proposed New International Trade Crossing. The NITC will provide a state-of-the-art, strategically located bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner and the new crossing is vital to enhancing this $70 billion-a-year trade relationship.

Michigan has nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing this project with Canada. Consider the following:

  • There is no cost to Michigan taxpayers for the NITC, which will be built and operated by the private sector. Canada has graciously agreed to foot the bill and will be repaid by tolls on the Canadian side of the border. The reason for such generosity? Canada understands the need to encourage trade and protect our mutual economic security. In fact, Canada considers the NITC to be that nation’s most critical infrastructure project. It is taking on these additional financial obligations because it understands that Michigan is still rebounding from the economic challenges of the past decade. The legally binding agreement between our state and Canadian partners makes this crystal clear -“ Michigan taxpayers will not pay for this project. Period.
  • The project will generate a demand for more than 11,000 jobs during its construction, according to a Center for Automotive Research analysis. Nearly 1,400 permanent jobs will be created for the bridge’s operation. Also, private investment generated by the NITC will create 6,800 permanent jobs and contribute $630 million a year to Michigan’s gross state product.
  • The current Detroit-Windsor bridge crossing -“ the Ambassador Bridge -“ is more than 80 years old and wasn’t designed to accommodate the volume of traffic it has today. About 99 percent of commercial traffic is forced to use this crossing. And, because the Ambassador Bridge empties thousands of trucks each day into downtown Windsor, this crossing is the worst traffic bottleneck in the entire Pan-American Freeway system. In contrast, the new NITC will provide a direct freeway-to-freeway connection between Michigan and Canada, allowing traffic to bypass residential areas.
  • Having only one bridge crossing between Detroit-Windsor jeopardizes our economic security. In December 2010 we saw firsthand how fragile the current system is, when a snowstorm shut down all trade across the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron and caused major backups at the Ambassador Bridge. The new NITC will provide a critical “safety valve” to alleviate similar situations. It will not put the Ambassador Bridge or the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron out of business. To the contrary -“ it complements both.
  • Michigan can leverage Canada’s $550 million contribution to the project as matching funds for U.S. federal aid on Michigan highway projects. That’s great news for motorists in every corner of our state. By the way -“ the $550 million from Canada is a contribution, not a loan. Michigan is under no obligation to repay Canada for its generosity.
  • The project prepares southeastern Michigan to become a global transportation hub when coupled with the region’s other assets.
  • The NITC will not be a “government bridge,” as various ads have portrayed it. Rather, it will be built, operated and maintained by the private sector under an innovative public-private partnership. Qualified bidders will vie for the right to operate the NITC. In fact, there’s nothing to stop the Ambassador Bridge owner to bid for the project as well.
  • The economies of Michigan and Canada are permanently linked. About 237,000 Michigan jobs depend on trade with Canada. In southeastern Michigan it’s about 1-in-8 jobs. In west Michigan it’s 1-in-7. We need the NITC so that the economic futures of Michigan and Canada can thrive.

If building the NITC is such a no-brainer, why are our mailboxes and TVs flooded with ads that are deceptive and downright untrue? The answer is simple. The owner of the Ambassador Bridge enjoys a monopoly and wants to preserve the status quo.

The owner is bankrolling Proposal 6, which voters will see on their Nov. 6 general election ballot. Its goal is to thwart -“ or at least delay -“ the NITC by requiring a statewide vote on the matter. In addition to hampering Michigan’s growth, Proposal 6 defines an international bridge as “any” bridge put into use after Jan. 1 of this year. Imagine the chaos and expense of requiring voters in Marquette to approve a local bridge project in Monroe. While that’s likely an unintended consequence, it’s something that citizens should consider.

The NITC has tremendous support from a broad range of groups ranging from organized labor to the agricultural community. Major newspapers in Canada, Michigan and other states strongly favor the project. Clearly, NITC opponents are out of step with our shared vision for Michigan.

The NITC is about more than building a bridge. It’s about building a future of economic strength and security for families across our entire state.

It’s a future that’s right for Michigan.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley can be reached at [email protected].