Snyder to feds: Foot bill for plaza or alienate Canada

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Troy — Gov. Rick Snyder suggested Thursday the Obama administration risks alienating its ally to the north over its refusal to fund a $250 million customs plaza for a new Detroit River bridge.

Snyder has toughened his talk this week about the need for the federal government to foot the bill for a customs plaza — the last unfunded piece for the long-planned New International Trade Crossing from Windsor to southwest Detroit.

"The U.S. government took a position to say they wouldn't pay for nor rent the facility," Snyder said Thursday at a campaign town hall event in Troy. "That's not right. They need to pick one or the other. I don't care. But you shouldn't just say we want it for free."

Snyder said he has been trying to convey to officials in President Barack Obama's administration that they're "offending the country of Canada" by not committing federal funds to the project.

"Wouldn't you be offended if Canada said that to us?" Snyder asked a crowd of 200 people who attended the forum at the American Polish Cultural Center.

On Monday, Snyder made similar remarks about the stalemate over funding for a customs plaza in a speech to west Michigan business leaders in Grand Rapids. He called it "offensive" that the federal government would expect Canada to pay for a customs plaza on American soil.

At the Troy town hall event, the Republican governor told a friendly crowd of mostly supporters that Canada is an ally "on speed dial" for America in times of need.

"Is the right way to keep them on speed dial to say, 'Go take a hike. That you're going to have to pay for something if you want that bridge?" Snyder said. "It's not a smart answer."

To date, Snyder has not been able to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to contribute state dollars to the project.

Instead, Canada has offered to pay Michigan's $550 million share of the $2.1 billion bridge, which is slated to open to international traffic in 2020. Michigan's share will be paid back through tolls.

"It's not costing Michigan taxpayers any money because of their partnership and belief in us," Snyder said.

Snyder, who is in a tough re-election battle against Democrat Mark Schauer, held his first town hall meeting of the fall election season Monday in Kalamazoo. The two men will square off in a televised town hall-style debate Oct. 12 in Detroit.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

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