New bridge clears last major hurdle
Contact: Matt Smego, 800-292-2680, ext. 2044
LANSING, APRIL 19, 2013 — One of the most eagerly anticipated infrastructure projects in Michigan since Mighty Mac cleared its last big hurdle last week with the announcement that President Barack Obama had signed off on the executive permit necessary for building the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). At an April 12 press conference in Detroit, a visibly enthused Gov. Rick Snyder announced the permit's approval, flanked by a host of officials representing local, provincial and national governments as well as boosters from the private sector.
"More than anything, I think what we take away from this is the acknowledgement of the need for this additional crossing," said Matt Smego, the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) legislative counsel who has been advocating for the new bridge on behalf of the state's agriculture industry. "From the standpoint of Michigan agriculture, this additional transportation capacity is vital to streamline and expand our access to markets in Canada."
The reverse is also true, Smego pointed out: Michigan imports a great deal of goods from Canada, including vital agricultural inputs like seed and fertilizer.
MFB President Wayne H. Wood was among the cadre of industry leaders asked to join Gov. Snyder on stage for the announcement.
"The New International Trade Crossing promises a long-overdue shot in the arm for Michigan's economy and an even stronger bond with our close friends across the border," Wood said in a statement following the press conference. "Michigan's food and farm sector was quick to recognize the importance of this project, and the necessity of improving access to our largest market. This substantial investment in our transportation infrastructure—made possible by all of our friends across the border and our allies on this side—is critically important to Michigan agriculture's continued prosperity."
Approximately 60 percent of Michigan's agricultural exports go to Canada—almost exclusively by truck—but the limited crossing options for those vehicles to cross into Ontario in a timely fashion have long hampered efficient trade.
"Michigan Farm Bureau takes great pride in being part of these events, which ultimately will benefit all Michigan residents and businesses," Wood said.
Canada is Michigan's largest trading partner—$70.2 billion in 2011—and more than 200,000 Michigan jobs are rooted in that relationship, including one in eight jobs in southeast Michigan. The existing bridge between Detroit and Windsor is the busiest trade crossing along the U.S.-Canada border, and the worst traffic bottleneck in the entire pan-American freeway system.
"This is all about jobs for today and tomorrow," Snyder said. "This is a major construction project that is expected to create 12,000 direct jobs and as many as 31,000 indirect jobs. Getting Michigan-made products to more markets faster will enhance our economic competitiveness in the future and help our state create more jobs."
Smego said the next steps will include utility relocation design and land acquisition on both sides of the Detroit River. Through an entity called the Crossing Authority, Canada will be responsible for the bridge's design, construction, finance, operation and maintenance.
Preemptively responding to concerns about the potential use of imported products, speakers at the announcement assured those present that the materials to build the span will be sourced domestically whenever possible, and that a priority will be put on using Michigan and Canadian labor.
Gov. Snyder said he hopes to break ground on the Michigan side within the next two or three years, with a completion goal of 2020. The span will provide a direct, highway-to-highway link between Detroit and Windsor. On the Canadian side, construction has already begun.