Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Border Hissy Fits

We had Three Blind Mice in Windsor dealing with border matters and now we have the Three Border Stooges: Eddie, Larry and Gord. As I point out at the end of this BLOG, the Border Stooges are killing Windsor more than they know.

What a contrast in attitudes. The Americans call their quarter of $1 billion Ambassador Gateway project that will disrupt traffic at the Ambassador Bridge for two years "Connecting Neighbors." Our Stooges scare off tourists to Windsor with the use of language about the Bridge Company's bridge maintenance project resulting in "Keeping Away Neighbors."

If there happened to be an American who was interested in coming to downtown Windsor, they would not have a brochure to help them the way MDOT prepared one. Rather they could go online and read about the hissy fits thrown by the Stooges over the closing of the Bridge Company's private road for a short period of time. With an attitude that some of the key figures in the City have with respect to the Bridge Company project I doubt anybody will come to the City of Windsor again.

Can you blame them? Here is what the Stooges had to say to scare off everyone:
  • Eddie said "They know I have expressed (that) any closure of the road will hurt downtown.

    "We need that exit to secure access to the casino, to downtown businesses and restaurants. This clearly eliminates that."

  • Larry called it "one more attack on small businesses.

    "I'm not happy. Other construction projects leave a lane open or do not disrupt traffic flow," he said. "Access to downtown in every other city is considered sacred.

    "The bridge doesn't understand the business case -- how the downtown and casino feed the bridge. This cannot be a unilateral move without taking business interests into consideration."

  • Gord talked about "erecting barriers blocking the main access route to downtown Windsor for motorists entering Canada...

    It could be days before search parties locate some of those dazed and confused Yanks who were redirected south along Huron Church with endless streams of 18-wheelers and ended up marooned (or is it Morouned?) in the frozen wilds of South Windsor. Or maybe Holiday Beach."

I really have to wonder how far Gord will go to show his animosity to the Moroun family personally and to try to work people up with his xenophobia. A few columns back he took a shot at Matthew Moroun and now an attack on his father, "one billionaire, 80-year-old American transportation tycoon." I wonder if Gord is suggesting that we should oppose him because he is older, worked hard to achieve his success or his citizenship.

Wow, it's all over one lane. You can see the backup of American cars below jamming this lane when I took the photo Sunday around 11:00 AM.

Compare what was said in the Star with Sunday's Detroit Free Press which dealt with the Ambassador Gateway project:

  • "Prepare for 2 years of detours on I-75
    Shutdown will scatter metro motorists all over

    Very early on Feb. 25, metro Detroit will lose I-75 near the Ambassador Bridge for nearly two years as Michigan's most expensive road reconstruction project shuts down the freeway, scattering traffic widely for an overhaul at one of the nation's most crucial international border crossings.

    That morning, drivers will face their first commute without the region's major north-south freeway. The first week or so is likely to be a mess.

    I-75 is closing as part of a $170-million rebuilding and realignment of I-75 and I-96near the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit. The endeavor will change how traffic flows between the bridge and the freeways and erect a new pedestrian overpass connecting the east and west sides of Detroit's Mexicantown, split for decades by the expressway.

    The shutdown will send drivers onto freeway detours all over town, but I-94 and I-96 are expected to take the brunt of the hit. While the state's main detour will follow I-275 and I-94, other drivers will flee to routes including Telegraph and the Southfield Freeway...

    The impact can't be understated, not only for Downriver residents, but for vacation travelers, commercial traffic and visitors to southwest Detroit.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation said the Ambassador is the nation's busiest border passage with Canada, with 11 million crossings each year accounting for $115 billion in trade. By the state's count, I-75 carries about 110,000 vehicles a day in that area.

    MDOT's aim is to modernize the nearly 40-year-old freeway near the bridge, move commercial traffic out of southwest Detroit neighborhoods and improve traffic flow.

    The bridge will remain open, with detours posted for commercial and passenger traffic. Those crossing into Windsor will stay on I-75 in either direction until they're forced off.

    Crews also will repair bridges in phases from downtown Detroit north to the Clarkston area, rebuild a stretch of the freeway between the southern Wayne County border and Gibraltar Road and repair a section of the northbound I-75 Rouge River Bridge in Detroit, which was damaged Jan. 10 in a tanker explosion.

    A longtime undertaking

    The $230-million project, called the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, has been in progress for several years.

    Detours to steer drivers westward

    Traffic between Detroit and the Downriver suburbs will be most affected, along with drivers from points south trying to pass through metro Detroit.

    Despite the scope of the project, MDOT said it doesn't mean it will be impossible to get around or into Detroit from south of the city. The heavy concentration of major freeways converging in or near downtown provides numerous alternate routes.

    The state also will adjust the timing of traffic lights to optimize travel on Fort Street and Grand River and Michigan avenues in the city.

    "Detroit's still open for business," Kratofil said. "You can still get to the bridge..."

    Still open for business

    Business owners in southwest Detroit said business is already hurting because of construction under way that hasn't affected I-75 traffic yet. They worry they'll suffer more when the freeway closes, despite what MDOT said will be an extensive public relations campaign to remind people that the area is still open for business.

    Nowhere will that message more important than in Mexicantown, where business has been down since construction equipment came in last summer for preparation work and building new service drives.

    "It's like, 'Yikes, it's here! And what are we going to do?' " said Maria Elena Rodriguez, president of the Mexicantown Community Development Corp. "It's been discussed for over 10 years. I don't think we're any more prepared than any other groups."

    Restaurants, stores, markets and other Mexicantown businesses are handing out bumper stickers that say, "I found my way to Mexicantown, and I'll be back!"

    Rodriguez said she hopes people still come to all the restaurants and attractions.

    "Don't be afraid to come down," Rodriguez said. "It'll take a little longer to get here, but it's not that difficult."
It is a somewhat bigger project don't you think than doing some maintenance work on the bridge. I do not hear whining and crying from the US side. I do not see columnists concerned that Canadians will disappear off the face of the earth. What I do see are business people dealing with the adversity trying innovative measures to minimize the problem unlike our business leaders.

I did see something interesting in the story that might concern the Head Stooge though if he keeps badmouthing everybody who wants to do something that may change the City:

  • Number of jobs connected to the project in 2008-09: 2,800!!