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A string of billion-dollar projects will push ahead the effort to rebuild Michigan's infrastructure while protecting the environment and supporting commerce.  

Earlier this month, construction started on the Gordie Howe International Bridge across the Detroit River to Windsor. It's a $2.9 billion undertaking that will stretch over six years.

When finished, it will provide a second Detroit River crossing and allow Michigan to compete as the premier entry point to Canada. 

Gov. Rick Snyder championed the new bridge in his first year in office, saying it would boost trade, help the auto industry and spin off jobs in industries such as trucking and logistics.

The groundbreaking came as Snyder was finalizing a deal with Canadian oil giant Enbridge Inc. to replace the contentious Line 5 petroleum pipeline, which crosses the Straits of Mackinac, linking the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

Environmentalists worry the more than 60-year-old pipeline poses a risk to the Great Lakes, and warn that a rupture could be disastrous for the nation's largest reservoir of fresh water.

The pipes are now set to run through a utility tunnel drilled into the rock 100 feet below the lake bed.

It's a $300 million to $500 million project that will take seven years to complete. But when finished, the Great Lakes will be virtually 100 percent secure against a break in the pipeline. 

Snyder hopes to negotiate the final details of the deal before he leaves office at the end of the year. 

The tunnel would better protect the lakes and give Enbridge and other utilities more options for transporting liquid products — and power — between the two peninsulas.

Until the tunnel is opened, Enbridge has agreed to have staff on site capable of shutting down Line 5 when waves in the straits reach a certain height. The company will also establish an $1.8 billion contingency fund to respond should Line 5 leak.

Perhaps the most significant development is the passage by the U.S. Senate of a $4.4 billion water infrastructure package that includes nearly $1 billion for a new lock at the Soo Locks in Sault St. Marie.

Great Lakes shippers and their customers have long argued for a new lock that can handle the 1,000-foot super ships that are now confined to the Poe Lock.

Should the Poe break down, it would cut off a major portion of Great Lakes shipping and impact a wide variety of industries, including steel and automobile making.

With Senate approval, the measure now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature. It was Trump's promise to build the new lock last summer during a Macomb County rally that jump-started the Soo Lock expansion.

These projects will have long-term benefits once they're finished. And in the meantime, they will trigger a construction boom in Michigan. More than 30,000 workers are expected to find jobs building the bridge, tunnel and lock.

Getting this major infrastructure work underway is a nice finishing touch for Snyder. 

 

 

 

 

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