A free bridge? You’ve got to be kidding.

Nothing will stop construction of another bridge crossing the Detroit River to ease traffic congestion around North America’s most important economic border. The New International Trade Crossing will be entirely financed and owned by the Canadian government under a public private partnership. It will link the US city of Detroit, in the state of Michigan, with the Canadian city of Windsor in the province of Ontario. The two cities already have the toll road Ambassador Bridge as well as a toll road tunnel and
Road Structures / February 18, 2015
Detroit-Windsor Bridge Detroit River
Artist impression of proposed Detroit-Windsor Bridge
Nothing will stop construction of another bridge crossing the Detroit River to ease traffic congestion around North America’s most important economic border.

The New International Trade Crossing will be entirely financed and owned by the Canadian government under a public private partnership. It will link the US city of Detroit, in the state of Michigan, with the Canadian city of Windsor in the province of Ontario.

The two cities already have the toll road Ambassador Bridge as well as a toll road tunnel and a rail freight tunnel.

But the new bridge won’t cost US taxpayers, especially those in Michigan, a penny. Yup. It’s a free bridge if you are American. In fact, Canada is also paying for access roads to link up to Michigan freeways and will likely also pay for a large US customs post on the American side of the bridge.

The Canadian government’s arms-length agency the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, set up last year to oversee the project, has begun buying land on both sides of the border for what will likely be either a suspension or cable-stayed bridge.

The WDBA also recently appointed California-based 3220 Parsons as the general engineering contractor for the project that could cost upwards of US$2 billion. The bridge is scheduled for completion around 2020 and the cost will be recouped from tolls, all of which will be collected by the Canadians.

Never mind the fact that the Canadian authorities as well as Detroit officials and even the governor of Michigan said it won’t cost US taxpayers, especially those in Michigan, a penny. One Detroit man doesn’t believe it. He and his family have spent millions trying to convince the people of Michigan to dump the idea of a new bridge, unless they would like another privately financed and privately owned right next to the existing Ambassador Bridge.

And that man’s name is Matt Moroun, whose billionaire family owns the said Ambassador Bridge. The 2.3km suspension bridge of four undivided lanes was opened in 1929 and cost $23.5 million. The Morouns have owned it since the 1970s and it reportedly nets the family around $60 million in annual toll revenue, according to Forbes magazine.

Moroun spent millions of dollars getting the state legislature to conduct a referendum – called Proposal 6 - that any new bridge must be voted upon by the people of Michigan. But he lost. However, while 60% said they didn’t want to have vote on a new bridge, 40% said they should be consulted, a reasonably high percentage…considering the bridge would be free.

Comedians were quick to pick up on the fact that Moroun could be acting in self-interest, considering that his customers might head over to the new bridge, hitting his toll income. US comedians, including the renowned Jon Stewart, also have poked fun at that 40% of people polled who appeared to be against having another bridge, even though it would be free.

It goes to show that you can’t please everybody all the time, as a transcript of Stewart’s television programme shows – 2 External <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 0 0 0 oLinkExternal click here Daily Show makes fun of Detroit, critics of new bridge to Canada false http://archive.freep.com/article/20130110/ENT03/130110036/daily-show-jon-stewart-bridge-debate false false%>.

The video of a spoof interview – because of copyright, only viewable in America – is available 2 External <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 0 0 0 oLinkExternal here Bridge to Canada false http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/ufy3de/bridge-to-canada false false%>.

World Highways will be investigating the proposed Windsor-Detroit bridge in a Key Project Report in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
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