Gov envisions progress on bridge with Canada’s new PM

Mark Hicks and Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he plans to work with newly elected Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau in plans for a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

“Our understanding is that he is a strong supporter of the bridge project and we look forward to working with him and his team to continue forward progress on this critical infrastructure project,” said Sara Wurfel, a Snyder spokeswoman, on Tuesday.

The $2.1 billion public-private span is to be two miles downriver from the Ambassador Bridge. Scheduled to open in 2020, it provides a second highway link for heavy trucks at the busiest U.S.-Canada crossing point. Promoters say it will overcome the problem caused by congestion at the 85-year-old, privately owned Ambassador.

Gordie Howe bridge project should remain on track under Trudeau

Canada is supplying Michigan’s $550 million share of the bridge, which will have to be repaid through tolls.

The election of Trudeau, a former schoolteacher who defeated Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Monday’s elections, has other implications for Michigan, as well, Snyder said.

“Canada is more than an important trading partner for Michigan. We’re neighbors, and we have many common values and concerns, especially regarding the Great Lakes that we share,” Snyder said Tuesday.

“I congratulate Justin Trudeau on his election Monday as Canada’s next prime minister, and I look forward to working with him and his administration.”

He also thanked Harper, “who has been a great partner over the years, especially in our efforts to make the Gordie Howe International Bridge a reality, boosting the economies of both countries and creating jobs on both sides of the border.”

Others agreed a willingness by Trudeau to reach across the border could benefit Michigan.

“One of the things Trudeau ran on is to improve Canadians’ position in the global market,” said Daniel Cherrin, former communications director for the city of Detroit who runs a binational public affairs firm and has represented Windsor. “He was looking to really create a literal bridge with the U.S. in finding ways to work together on issues such as climate change ... and also infrastructure, specifically with the new bridge.”

Trudeau’s father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was a dashing bachelor when he rose to office in 1968. Known for setting Canada on a firm liberal course, the elder Trudeau also enthralled the world with his whirlwind social life. While in office, he dated movie stars including Barbra Streisand, married 22-year-old Margaret Sinclair, had three children with her, including Justin, and then separated from her.

Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge, has sought to block the proposed public span and build another next to the Ambassador. A federal judge recently threw out eight of nine counts of a 2010 lawsuit filed by the bridge owners challenging the proposed span.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the election would affect plans by Manuel “Matty” Moroun and his family, who control the bridge. Spokesman Mickey Blashfield said the company wouldn’t comment Tuesday on the election’s impact.

“It is in everybody’s best interest to give the new government our congratulations and our support as they focus on their priorities to turn the economy around.”

Staff Writer David Shepardson and the Associated Press contributed.