More From Lansing
The Lansing hearings saga continued with at least one more session to come. This week, I thought the presentations were good but the questioning did not match the quality of last week.
There were 3 representatives from the Delray Community who made a joint presentation gushing about how open and helpful MDOT was and how a new bridge in Delray would revitalize the community there. Yet on our side, the Sandwich reps want the new bridge to stay as far away from Sandwich as possible because a new bridge there could destroy the community.
The Delray people slam the Bridge Co. and their proposal (which does not impact Delray at all) yet think a public bridge in whose shadow their community will be in is somehow better. Strange, the reps have a history of opposing a private bridge in one part of town and now want a public one in theirs. Sandwich does not want a bridge in their community, public or private.
Which of the two communities is correct in their view? I was rather confused to be direct by the Delray position. But then again, I saw the lovely boards and pictures that DRIC reps showed at the recent CCG/LAC meeting of what Delray could become and I thought about moving there tomorrow...it was a new paradise on earth. Perhaps the Michigan Legislators should be shown them as well.
It would be as hard for someone in Delray to reject that view of the future as it would be for a Windsorite to dismiss Gridlock Sam's slide of the ugly Huron Church Raod becoming the Champs Elysee of Canada! Those artists' renditions are wonderful.
Marge Byington of DRTP gave a very effective performance. I could see her lawyers trying in court to stop DRIC soon using her materials! The start of a STOPDRIC movement perhaps. There were at least a dozen or more factors she identified as problematic for DRIC. She even used a Face-to-Face interview of Councillor Halberstadt who confirmed DRTP's view that the process was "political" not technical.
It was interesting as well how she was trying to gain the "friendship" of the other rejected private enterprise company, the Bridge Co., by talking about a multi-modal solution of bridge and tunnel which would give 6 lanes of traffic across the river and would meet the DRIC requirements.
She also claimed that the DRTP project would now cost $2 billion (I assume that is the tunneled DRTP and not the original DRTP). I thought she said that private money would finance the whole project where before they needed $150 million Government and $450M private. Why the Government share dropped when the project more than tripled in cost is something I do not undrstand. Nor do I understand how a project that may be have problems being successful at $600 million if traffic projections decrease is financially viable at $2 billion.
Then the highlight for me, Deputy Mayor of Detroit, Anthony Adams. As I said before, I like big city American politicians. Detroit he said was not going to be pushed around by MDOT. The Mayor speaks for the City. He said that the DRIC process was unacceptable without Detroit's involvement. He rejected the view that MDOT could make land use planning decisions for Detroit
He effectivley challenged DRIC and MDOT saying that dollars had been spent already for the crossing and re-aligning roads and why did they want to spend more money and relocate people and businesses when it may not be necessary.
He said flat out that a new crossing was not needed at this time since the existing infrastructure was good. He said that Detroit needed to remain the pre-eminent border crossing point in North America and that they therefore needed to maximize the use of the money already spent and protect the investment they have already made.
Brian Masse surprisingly showed up, actually, not so surprisingly. He stated his usual about an authority to manage the border and public ownership. Other than that, I have no idea why he even attended. Is there the verbal equivalent of a photo-op? If so, that was Brian's presentation!
Bridge Co. consultants spoke last. They challenged the assumption that traffic would pick up saying that DRIC had changed their projections 3 times in several years already. They said that the Blue Water bridge was twinned yet their traffic now is lower than before. They pointed out the obvious like reduced traffic due to loss of jobs, and the region changing from manufacturing jobs to knowledge-based ones.
They challenged the view that "public" is better saying that a private operator has no incentive for not building when traffic is there and would maintain its property. Back-ups were not good for business! Again the obvious, that a public bridge was subject to politics not economics since taxpayer money was used.
They talked about finances ie how will a new bridge generate tolls and was there enough business so that a crossing might go broke if there was not.
But the best part was the long listing of essential roadworks the State needed to have done and which would not be done if the $400 million for the bridge was all public money and would be used up for the border project ie you cannot use the same dollar twice. That should have brought things home to politicians who were running for re-election.
One other interesting point, if Michigan spends its money on a bridge, there is no Federal matching money. But if a private company spends theirs, then the Feds match it.
The consultants also confirmed that the Bridge Co. had already applied for the permits to build the Twinned Bridge.