Recently, the Canadian government announced its willingness to begin construction on the New International Trade Crossing to Canada, which voters approved in 2012. The NITC is a necessary alternative to the privately owned Ambassador Bridge. Furthermore, the NITC has the potential to contribute to growth — which Detroit seriously needs. The bridge would create job opportunities, as well as lead to needed infrastructure improvements for shipping industrial components in and out of a city that is still heavily dependent on manufacturing. Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder must work with the federal government to secure the necessary funding and ensure the bridge’s construction.
The Canadian government is ready to proceed with land purchases, and will be responsible for the majority of the costs — totaling over $2 billion. The United States has yet to provide the $325 million needed to build a customs plaza and I-75 connection ramps. Although Snyder has strongly endorsed the new bridge, his push has not been sufficient to pressure the Department of Homeland Security to provide the funds.
The Ambassador Bridge, which was built in 1929, lacks the capacity to meet the demand for trade and ground shipping exchanges between Detroit and Windsor. According to a 2010 report, approximately 10,000 commercial vehicles cross over the four-lane bridge on a typical weekday. Canadian transportation officials are expecting truck traffic to triple and vehicle traffic to double over the next 30 years. The Ambassador Bridge already struggles to accommodate truck and vehicle traffic, and increases will unnecessarily burden businesses with long border wait times. Because the current bridge directs traffic through residential and commercial areas, trucks pass through 17 traffic lights in town. Although there is a Detroit—Windsor tunnel as well, public demand for the NITC demonstrates the incapacity of the existing bridge and tunnel. The NITC will directly connect to major roads, simultaneously increasing efficiency and alleviating traffic. The NITC has the potential to enhance the already strong trade relationship between the two countries, improving the economies of both through the additional gains of comparative advantage.
Furthermore, the NITC would provide a public option for international crossing between Detroit and Windsor, disrupting the private near-monopoly held by the Moroun family, the current owners of the Ambassador Bridge. The new bridge is needed to strike a balance between private and public ownerships. This would allow tolls to respond better to market pressure. The Canadian government will collect tolls to help offset the costs of construction, but ownership of the bridge will be jointly held between the United States and Canada.
The NITC may also help spur job growth in Detroit. Snyder believes that this major construction project will directly create 12,000 jobs and indirectly create 31,000 jobs as a byproduct of better trade. Also, more trucks can smoothly cross over the new bridge for trading business purposes. In an interview with CBC News, Snyder said, “Getting Michigan-made products to more markets faster will enhance our economic competitiveness in the future and help our state create more jobs.” Once construction is complete, the bridge may help revitalize the city of Detroit and attract new industry and business professionals.
While his support for the project is commendable, Snyder needs to do more to ensure the project moves forward in a timely manner. Snyder should pressure the Department of Homeland Security to fund the plaza. As the Canadian government has already committed to fund the project up front, the United States should actively cooperate with Canada so that construction can begin. Snyder also needs to create a plan to relocate or properly compensate the more than 1,000 residents who will have to move out of the Delray district to make room for the plaza and related infrastructure. Concrete plans from Snyder could help further construction efforts that will benefit the state.
Prompt action by Snyder and the federal government to provide funds for the NITC is in the best interest of the state. Adequate funding for the customs plaza will allow construction to begin on a project that will enhance trade, create jobs and provide a balance between government and private ownership of vital infrastructure.