Detroit-Windsor's P3 Solution
I thought that the Globe and Mail did the best job of all of the articles I read on the issue from the different media outlets. (I am not talking about the Windsor Star since my assumption is that Windsorites would know the background).
Why did the Minister make the announcement? Clearly a variation of the P3 is what the Governments want to do. We have heard that from Ontario notwithstanding the denials and from MDOT in Michigan. Cannon's statement was nothing more than the Feds asserting control publicly and wanting to see who would bid if a proposal went forward. I am sure that there is a number of notes on the desk of the Minister today from interested parties.
Trouble is, if the various private investors do proper "due diligence" to determine traffic volumes and future profitability, then none will come forward (Can Borealis be that dumb twice now with Windsor?). If they do the basic research, then they will see that volumes are crashing not increasing. I asked this before:
- Who would pay $50 or more per truck to use the new bridge when they could pay less at the Ambassador Bridge
- Which private enterprise group would finance a bridge that could not compete and could not cover interest payments.
- Which private enterprise group will even consider financing the bridge once the Bridge Co. starts building their enhancement project
- Why should taxpayers have to finance a money-losing crossing
- Who other than taxpayers would have to finance the losses of the new bridge every year forever
- How much will the the Government lose on the new bridge when it goes bankrupt
The Globe reporter was able to put the story in the proper context for its readers. The issue is really how the Bridge Co. fits into all of the machinations and how it is going to be dealt with by Government. The Senate hearings over the next week or so should give us some indication of what will happen with Bill C-3 and the Government-Bridge Co. relationship.
Take note of this comment by Dan Stamper in yesterday's Star:
- "Ambassador Bridge company president Dan Stamper said Cannon's announcement "kind of busts the bubble" of critics who have been demanding the new crossing be publicly constructed and operated.
He said it is a sign governments on the Canadian side are prepared to fix the feeder roads while the bridge company moves to build a twin span."
In the end, that is what the P3 will look like! It will be a torture getting there but that is the only realistic alternative that I see that will face-save for everyone (along with protecting a corridor to a new bridge on the DRIC route if it is needed one day. Governments have to justify the mega-millions spent on DRIC don't they!). It is how each party carries out its part of the "partnership" that has been on-going for over 75 years.
Remember that Government has "partnered" with the bridge over roads before. There is a precedent:
- "The opening of the Ambassador Bridge in 1929 resulted in a significant rerouting of Hwy 3 through Windsor. The highway had previously entered Windsor along Dougall Avenue, concurrently with Hwy 2. Until 1929, Hwy 3 ended at the International Ferry Dock between Dougall Avenue and Ouellette Avenue. When the new Ambassador Bridge opened, Hwy 3 was rerouted along Huron Church Line Road, a route which it retains to this day. The old alignment of Hwy 3 into downtown Windsor became Hwy 3A."
West End activists and politicos should finally understand that neither Sandwich nor Delray will be destroyed under this P3 either nor will Sandwich be sandwiched between 2 bridges.
And it won't be more of the same either. There will be much more Government oversight due to the passing of the health, safety and security aspects of Bill C-3.
In other words, there is a workable solution out there if anyone is really interested. And I am sure that you have noticed, dear reader, that I have ignored the Mayor and Council. Everyone else will too unless they get onboard quickly!
Ottawa to explore private help at border
Detroit-Windsor expansion must have 'value for money,' official says
BRENT JANG, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER
Ottawa wants to listen to pitches from the private sector to help construct a new Windsor-Detroit crossing, but the name of Manuel (Matty) Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, was conspicuously absent from talk about a new partnership.
Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon reaffirmed the federal Tory government's plans to evaluate a wide range of options to reduce trucking congestion at North America's busiest commercial crossing.
"We have to make sure that there is value for money," he said yesterday, noting that public-private partnerships, or P3s, will be held accountable. "I'm not announcing that we're going to do it. We're going to explore this possibility. It is in the realm of the options that we must look at."
The previous Liberal government also backed P3s as a potential model, endorsing a bi-national study group's governance statement in August, 2005, saying Ottawa is open to the idea of the private sector's involvement.
The study group, called the Border Transportation Partnership, was founded in 2000 by governments in Canada and the United States. A "preferred location," with details of routes leading to the proposed new bridge, is expected to be announced by late 2007.
One year ago, the group recommended that a new border crossing be located west of the 77-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which is privately owned by Mr. Moroun, a reclusive Michigan billionaire.
The group ruled out Mr. Moroun's proposal to build a new crossing parallel to the existing bridge, but the U.S. businessman has submitted his plans to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for review.
"The proposal consists of building a six-lane, cable-stayed bridge across the Detroit River to the west of the existing span," according to the agency. "The width of the proposed bridge is larger than the existing structure, with a clear roadway width of 31 metres."
Ed Arditti, a Windsor lawyer and blogger who has been tracking the Ambassador Bridge's expansion plans, said he believes that Mr. Moroun still has the upper hand, even though Ottawa is no fan of having the billionaire strengthen his hold on the border.
One way or another, Ottawa will have to deal with Mr. Moroun, who has assembled properties on both sides of the border.
Mr. Arditti said he doubts any P3 will be able to work more efficiently than Mr. Moroun, who is seen by some observers as having the lead in the race to build a second bridge across the Detroit River.
Ottawa is "the jockey who is scrambling to get back on the horse," said Mr. Arditti, who figures that private tolls levied by the Ambassador Bridge operators for the new crossing would be much lower than any rate charged by a P3.
The Detroit River Tunnel Partnership said yesterday its project remains alive, noting it recently won an endorsement from the Windsor and District Labour Council.
Mr. Cannon said it's too early to discuss potential private-sector partners, emphasizing that an environmental assessment of the Windsor-Detroit corridor won't be finished until next year.
Mr. Cannon flatly rejected reports that Ottawa had already backed plans for a new Windsor-Detroit infrastructure megaproject in concert with the private sector. "That wasn't in the works," he said during a news conference after speaking to the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.
Neither Mr. Cannon's final speech nor the draft version carried any such megaproject announcement, said a Transport Canada official, who pointed out that site selection isn't even finished yet.
A new bridge, including customs plazas and feeder roads, could cost up to $3-billion, experts say.
Mr. Cannon acknowledges that there is a "great deal of wariness" about having the private sector help build public projects, but the council released a survey yesterday that suggests Canadians are warming to the notion of private investment playing a key role in improving public infrastructure.
Broadly speaking, Ottawa favours greater private investment for much-needed infrastructure spending, Mr. Cannon said.
"We're trying to, fundamentally, look at ways where we can accelerate the investment in terms of infrastructure," he said. "This is something that we believe is extremely important for our economic development, but at the same time, our competitiveness."