Editorial: Trump should stay off Howe bridge
One day the Moroun family is standing next to Ford Motor Co. bigwigs reveling in the attention generated by the sale of their long neglected Michigan Central Depot to the automaker for use as a mobility hub. The next day they're back standing alone against another key development project: the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
The Morouns, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, this week launched an ad campaign appealing to President Donald Trump to block construction of the new span, which is to cross the Detroit River into Canada at the Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit.
The television commercial appeals to Trump's trade protectionist instincts, noting the new bridge would be "Canadian made, Canadian owned, Canadian workers." It also suggests the steel for the span would come from foreign sources.
Trump recently imposed stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Canada.
The commercial is not at all accurate. While Canada has agreed to loan Michigan its portion of the construction costs -- $550 million -- the funds will be repaid over time from tolls and the bridge will be jointly owned. The agreement with Canada also assures that both American and Canadian workers will be employed in building the span. It also assures that steel will be purchased from foundries in both Canada and the U.S.
The commercial has a last-ditch feel to it. A federal appeals court earlier this year upheld the agreement between Gov. Rick Snyder and the Canadian government that cleared the way for the bridge.
The Morouns are nearly out of options for blocking the Howe project. So they're playing the Trump card.
The Moroun family is active in Republican politics, but has donated money to candidates from both parties.
The owners of the Detroit International Bridge Co. understandably fear the new span will cut into their traffic and profits. The Ambassador is the only bridge over the river in Metro Detroit. The only other local crossings are the Detroit-Windsor tunnel and a train tunnel.
The company has proposed building a new six-lane bridge next to the Ambassador, and note in the ad that it would be "an American bridge," a blatant appeal to Trump's America First leanings.
But it could also remain the only local crossing, as the Morouns would be free to either mothball or tear down the Ambassador rather than operate two bridges.
Snyder, in proposing the Howe bridge in his first year in office, accepted the argument from automakers and other businesses in southeastern Michigan that a second span would lead to greater import/export traffic overall and be an economic driver for southeastern Michigan.
That's still the belief. And it's why President Barack Obama approved the necessary permits in 2013. The Morouns are asking Trump to repeal those permits.
Meanwhile, millions have already been spent on prep work on both sides of the river, including the removal of 4,000 trees in Delray.
This project is well underway. If completed it would be of tremendous economic benefit for Michigan.
Trump should stay out of this fight and let the Gordie Howe bridge rise.