Second bridge connecting Windsor and Detroit approved
The Ambassador Bridge linking Windsor and Detroit. (QMI Agency files)
LONDON, Ont. — Plans for the new Detroit-Windsor bridge cleared another hurdle Friday when it got a much-anticipated presidential permit.
“A lot of people are very excited. We’ve been in this region waiting for some time for this announcement,” said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis.
“We all knew the presidential permit wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made the announcement in Detroit with politicians on both sides of the border in attendance.
But trouble could be brewing as Ambassador Bridge owner and billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun filed a civil lawsuit this year to block the permit — which clears the way for construction on the publicly owned bridge to begin — claiming he has exclusive rights to operate the Windsor-Detroit crossing without competition.
The claim is based on an opinion from a law professor at Wayne State University, said Roy Norton, a Canadian consul-general based in Detroit who was a key player in forging the deal to construct the new bridge.
“No legal scholar not in the pay of the Moroun’s seems to share that opinion,” Norton said.
Moroun has been trying to hold up the second bridge, spending millions to block the approvals.
Francis said the decision over whether a second bridge was a go was put to rest last June when Snyder and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a deal.
“From my perspective that was the green light and everything else was a matter of process and steps that needed to be followed,” he said.
But he did add the presidential permit was a “key” step.
“It is very positive news that the presidential permit has been issued because now if there were naysayers out there, if there were doubters out there, that puts it all to rest today. The permit’s been issued, the work’s going to begin, the bridge is going to be built and everybody can move on and focus on jobs and the economy.”
Snyder called it a good day, saying the permit is about much more than a bridge, but jobs and the future of Michigan.
“We have a $70-billion relationship with Canada. We are best partners and friends in terms of international relations,” he said. “In the short term, the construction will provide thousands of jobs to Michiganders and Canadians. It’s a win for all, long- and short-term.”
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said the priority now is to start construction as soon as possible.
The bridge, she added, will be good for the auto industry.
- With files from Hank Daniszewski