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Federal transportation officials are expected to award a $25 million grant to the long-delayed expansion of the customs plaza at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, a Michigan lawmaker said Monday. 

The Blue Water Bridge, which links Port Huron with Sarnia, Ontario, has awaited a delayed $298 million construction project for roughly 10 years. The improvements are expected to reduce backups and crossing times for travelers.

"I'm pleased the Department of Transportation has heard us on the issue of funding that," said U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Dryden Republican. "It's a good step forward after a decade of trying to get that funded." 

Port Huron was the fourth-busiest border crossing for passenger vehicles last year and the third-busiest for trucks, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Combined, the crossings in Detroit and Port Huron accounted for 36% of U.S.-Canada trade in 2019.

The state Department of Transportation had sought $50 million in federal grant money for the project, which languished during the Obama administration and has remained dormant since. The span is jointly owned by the U.S. and Canada.

"It will definitely help with the long-awaited customs plaza," said Jeff Cranson, an MDOT spokesman who confirmed the $25 million federal award. 

"We have some money in Blue Water Bridge revenue set aside for this, and we'll now have to find more."

Cranson said MDOT wanted to thank U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and other members of the state's congressional delegation "for their steadfast support for this project." 

“Completion of this plaza is long overdue given this critical role and the significant sacrifices the local community has made over the years in support of our nation’s security and interests," said Stabenow, D-Lansing.

Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he would "continue pressing on the federal level to ensure we have the resources to complete the customs plaza expansion.”  

Lawmakers and local officials have complained that delaying the expansion of the customs plaza created hardship by affecting the tax bases in Saint Clair County and Port Huron. 

More than 100 properties were demolished to prepare the expansion, but the land has sat vacant. 

mburke@detroitnews.com

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