Keep On Trucking
by Rolf Lockwood
Even after nearly six decades on the planet, there are still things that astonish me. Like that "six decades" deal, but I don't want to talk about it. Somewhere on the list is the fact that I escaped my teenaged years intact. That I haven't written the great novel yet. I might add the stunning architecture of Prague, the spare beauty of the prairies.
If you'll allow me a bout of whining, there's also the relentless stupidity of voters, the unforgivable lewdness and sexism of nearly every hip-hop video I've ever seen (I'm no prude, I promise you, but I've got daughters), and of course the nearly complete absence of simple kindness in daily life.
All of these things astonish me. Oh yeah, also the popularity of Tom Cruise. Why? But I digress.
Near the top of this personal holy-moly-that's-amazing heap there's the political soap opera that's been playing out in Windsor and Detroit these last few years. It's been utterly astonishing in countless ways, not least of which was my discovery quite a few years back that the Ambassador Bridge linking those two cities -- and two big economies -- sits in private hands. It didn't start out that way back when it was finished in 1929, incidentally, as a joint effort of what would later become known as Motown and the Rose City.
But since 1978 Michigan mogul Matty Moroun has owned the bridge that connects a massive portion of the Canadian economy to the U.S. of A. Effectively, therefore, he has a stranglehold on our collective well being. I've written about all that before, but it still boggles this tiny mind that the bridge belongs to someone.
By all accounts his companies run the bridge well, but that's not the point. It's a principle. While I don't much like toll highways being in private hands either, I can live with it because in the larger scheme of things it doesn't much matter and they can probably do a better job of it anyway. This wildly important trade and security link is a very, very different thing. We the people simply must own the really crucial stuff.
And now another astonishment from that part of the world. Some progress has finally been made, I think, on pinning down a long-term strategy to expand capacity at the Detroit–Windsor Gateway.
You'll read much more about it by searching in TodaysTrucking.com of course, so I'll just say here that the "bi-national" group charged with studying border-crossing options has narrowed things down a lot -- the "Jobs Tunnel" is out, and so is the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge. Many other proposals have been turfed as well. In fact, no specific existing proposal is recommended, rather bridge launching/landing areas have been identified on either side of the river. The binational folk appear to like some of the recommendations of the million-dollar Sam Schwartz study commissioned by the City of Windsor. That's a good thing.
So has progress actually been made? Yes, in theory, but with so many highly developed proposals chucked out, we're starting afresh on the technical side of things. We know the parts of Windsor and Detroit where a bridge will go, but we won't have final details until 2007 and construction of a bridge will stretch to 2013.
Despite his immense influence, Moroun's company's proposal to twin the Ambassador to add border-crossing capacity was turned down by the binational task force, but has he lost? No way. Mr. Moroun does not lose.
For one thing, he owns a ton of land on either side of the river and controls more of it -- oddly enough, in exactly the places where the new bridge will start and stop. Plans to expand his customs plaza on the American side of the Ambassador to 100 booths are going ahead, his spokesmen say, and it looks as if the binational task force plan is to link the new bridge with that facility.
Frankly, it's inevitable that Moroun will win big, and my bet is that the new bridge will be his. As one knowledgeable observer puts it, Moroun and his bridge company are "that close" to checkmate. And of all the things that astonish me, that sure ain't one of them.