Washington — A Michigan member of Congress has introduced legislation to fund the building of new U.S. Customs plazas for a planned Detroit River crossing and elsewhere, while the Canadian government announced it is boosting funding for the bridge.
Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, introduced the Customs Plaza Construction Act of 2014 on Tuesday to construct U.S. Customs plazas at “critical trade crossings like the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) at the U.S.-Canada border.”
The project has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Regional Chamber. Last year, the U.S. State Department approved a presidential permit for the crossing, though the owner of the privately operated Ambassador Bridge has filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking to block the crossing.
“The Detroit-Windsor border is one of the busiest and most important trade crossings in North America, and a new bridge here will create thousands of jobs in Southeast Michigan. The project will make it easier for Michiganders and businesses in the region to trade with one of our most important trading partners in Canada. The new customs plaza is the critical next step for Michigan and our economy,” Peters said.
The proposed NITC calls for a six-lane bridge. The Canadian government has agreed to fund construction and land acquisition of the $2.1 billion project, per an agreement with the state of Michigan to be repaid by tolls.
Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, billionaire owner of the 85-year-old bridge, said declining traffic means a new bridge isn’t warranted. He has proposed building a second span next to his bridge, but Canadian officials oppose it for a number of reasons.
Snyder applauded Wednesday the introduction of Peters’ bill in a statement. After speaking at a Michigan Farm Bureau event Wednesday in Lansing, Snyder said he has been in talks with Michigan’s congressional delegation on securing federal funding for the customs plaza.
The Legislature so far has refused to dedicate any portion of state resources toward the project, even restricting the Michigan Department of Transportation’s involvement.
The governor cited several factors that have created a snag in the Customs Plaza funding in Congress.
“They have a challenged budget in terms of huge deficits,” Snyder said.
Securing this kind of line-item funding has changed in Congress, he added.
“The old way it used to be done was earmarks through congressional delegation members,” Snyder said. “And they don’t really do that process any more. Then it becomes a question of, can you get it in the president’s budget or other mechanisms to get it through?”
Snyder added: “I come back to the basics: The U.S. government uses this to protect the U.S. and they don’t want to pay for it or rent it. There has to be a better answer than that.”
The NITC has broad support from business and labor organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Farm Bureau. Labor organizations such as the Michigan State AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, International Union of Operating Engineers and Utility Workers Union of America have also expressed broad support.
The Canadian government is proposing to spend more than $630 million over two years to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge crossing.
The $631 million Canadian dollars is about $575 million U.S. dollars.