MDOT Has No Objection To Bridge Co.'s Project Application
I just received the Minutes of the Detroit River International Crossing Study Local Advisory Council/Local Agency Group Meeting of September 27, 2006. There it was, in the first point in the Meeting Minutes Note:
- "Mohammed Alghurabi then indicated that a letter was sent by the MDOT Director Kirk Steudle to the United States Coast Guard indicating that there was no objection to the application submitted to the Coast Guard by the Detroit International Bridge Company."
Now the real question: who in Government on our side of the river knew about this significant statement and kept it hidden from the Public? Why has it not been revealed before ? What else is being kept from us because it does not fit some bureaucrat's agenda!
That application in case you are wondering is for the environmental hearings in front of the Coast Guard for the Ambassador Bridge to build their enhancement project.
Do you, dear reader, understand the significance of this? Let me explain!
As far as the Federal US Government is concerned and the President of the United States, via the Department of State, the Bridge Co. is the only proponent that does NOT require a Presidential permit and is welcome to proceed with a new span. The DRIC bridge would need one, and is no where close to getting one. More importantly, the US Federal Government does NOT seem to favour a DRIC crossing. When DRIC sought "State Department concurrence in the conclusion that the centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing," they refused to give their concurrence.
We know where the Mayor of Detroit stands on this matter: He wants the Ambassador Gateway project location, not something on the outer rim of his City.
As for US DRIC itself, even they ranked the Ambassador Bridge very highly in cost-effectiveness, effectiveness and Regional Mobility.
As far as the Mighigan Legislature is concerned, they cut DRIC funding for MDOT and limited their ability to move forward with DRIC. And the Governor did NOT veto it. Now MDOT sends a letter, signed by the Director, Kirk Steudle, to the Coast Guard saying “MDOT has no objection to the application before you.”
Now I don't know about you, but if I worked in a large organization ((like a governmental bureaucracy), I sure would make certain that my boss, the Governor, knew what I was sending out on such a controversial matter before I sent it, especially when I remember what happened to my predecessor!
Now just between you and me...isn't it easy to understand what those few words mean. "MDOT has no objection." If you want a good chuckle read the 3-page letter attached to the Minutes that "explains" what some group thinks the plain words say!
In summary, no matter what someone says, this is a clear, concise and BOLD statement made by MDOT. Whether it is characterized as MDOT saying something new and unexpected or something that they have said for years in relation to the Gateway project or whatever spin someone wants to put on it, it is a showstopper. And Canada’s municipal, provincial and federal governments have failed to get the message!
In other words, MDOT reviewed the Ambassador Bridge submission and notice for their Enhancement Project which pursues a new crossing for the Detroit River. Not one single, solitary issue was raised! The most Senior government in the US, the one directly impacted the most by the Bridge Co. project, has no objection!
And we only learn about it in some Meeting notes distributed to a relatively few people.
There is a question that politicians on both sides of the border should be asking their bureaucrats today! WHY!
I supect that the Coast Guard will deal with what MDOT says about this project with the greatest deference and respect. After all, who should know more about this project and the impact on Michigan than MDOT?
One can say now with some certainty, that notwithstanding what DRIC tried to do or may say, politically, the Ambassador Gateway is the spot where the Bridge Co.'s bridge will land on the US side and will be built first.
Now if you believe that the Canadian Governments were not aware of this MDOT letter, I have a Tunnel connecting Detroit and Windsor for sale or lease. It has obviously caused them major problems. They thought they had gotten rid of the Bridge Co. or put a delay on their project. They may have thought that they had time to carry out their agenda of trying to build a new bridge to compete with the Ambassador Bridge or perhaps to try and strike a blow to the Bridge Co. to force them into a postion of negotiation for a sale.
Maybe but just maybe, what has been happening ever since the Michigan Republicans put the boots to DRIC has may teach the Canadians that what happens on the other side does have some importance. I expect that there were some urgent phone calls between Lansing and Toronto and Ottawa trying to figure out what this means and what to do.
My suspicion is that the two Senior Levels are starting to jockey for position now. Who will be left holding the bag, left to turn out the DRIC lights, and at the end looking foolish when this DRIC extravaganza folds as the Americans flex their muscles and the real political decisions have to be made. Which of the Canadian Senior Level Governments are the Americans going to blame if Michigan's economy suffers since the road to the border is still in limbo.
Right now the Province has the advantage. Federal Minister Cannon seems to be too busy worrying about electing Conservatives in Quebec than doing his job respecting the Windsor border. I won't even talk about the unique security risk known as the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel that Windsor's Mayor/WTC Chair is trying to flog.
Ontario Minister Cansfield took to offensive positioning when she came down here 2 weeks after the letter was released. She struck first in my opinion with her people hot off the mark after theMDOT surprise. Re-read my BLOG on Friday, September 29, 2006 "The Cansfield Shocker"
She backed off of her "As lead for the Border Transportation Partnership" statement for the time being but her speech laid out that Ontario is going to take credit for what happens on the border crossing come election time. She tried to pre-empt the Feds and she put Eddie in his place. She said:
- respecting the road to the border, it's the DRIC road like it or not
- no one is building a truck road through or under Ojibway or the ANSI
- forget the quality of life and tunnel talk. No one is investing billions on a problem that will disappear in less than a decade
- play ball or forget Tunnel Plaza improvements
- by NOT mentioning the Ambassador Bridge volumes were spoken.
Eddie got the message. And did not like it. How else does one explain the Gord Henderson threat to Sandra and Dwight.
- "The fix is in. If Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello could abandon Windsor on the arena file, what faith can we have that they won't hang this city out to dry on a far more important issue -- fixing the border?"
Eddie has to be desperate to keep the Province onside. He knows he is finished otherwise. A Provincial election is coming soon. Henderson's column, Fulvio's outburst against the Provincial cabinet members, and the NDP attack on Sandra over the arena issue in the Legislature appear to be a strong-arm move to show the Liberals what will happen down here if they dare defy the Mayor. It is telling Dwight and Sandra to enjoy their Cabinet perks because they might not have them after Eddie gets through with them.
It was a dumb move on Eddie's part. As someone told me, the Liberals were furious at what they perceive to be the Mayor's actions. You do not target your friends in high places, especially the ones who can send money down here. The Province's attitude is now that they will not shove something down Eddie's throat but they will shove it up his (where the sun don't shine) when they have to and when it is convenient for them to do so!
As for the Feds, they seem adrift at sea waiting for something to happen in the Senate with Bill C-3. I am not quite sure what they are doing to be direct on the border file these days.
What I suspect will happen is that the Feds and Province will call a truce before too long. They aren't going to fight each other over a Windsor border crossing. Why should they...they have Eddie Francis to be the fall guy and whom they both can blame for inaction and what they will be forced into doing.
For some, this will be sweet revenge for which they have been waiting for a long time. Payback can be fun.
Right after the municipal election, which is after the Michigan election, the real game will start. The Americans will request that action be taken on the border immediately. That's a no-brainer. Enough is enough. The Canadians will agree. Whatever the Feds and Province agree to will be shoved up or down Eddie because he refused to act. [It would be so much easier for everyone if David Wonham was Mayor since he is smart enough to know he does not know everything] And the hundreds of millions of dollars for border infrastructure and bridge creation will create thousands of needed jobs here and get the Liberals some votes. And David Estrin will not be instructed to sue.
After all, Eddie will learn (as Mike Hurst warned him and Eddie did not heed), that the Mayor of Windsor is the Mayor of a small town. He has no authority, he has no clout.
PS. As for the Bridge Co., the politicians will finally realize that they have to deal with them whether they like it or not. From what I can tell in Lansing and in Ottawa, the hearings have won friends for the Bridge Co. or at least an understanding of what their concerns are. The myths and disinformation are disappearing fast.
A deal will be reached. I have no idea what it will be. But I expect we will all be surprised by it. As Gord Henderson said: