Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, February 04, 2008

Did Senator Cropsey Just Kill The DRIC Bridge

You want to hear some straight talk on the border issue from a politician and none of this namby-pamby nonsense about "respecting the DRIC process" that we hear from Canadian politicians, well just keep on reading.

In case some Canadian and Ontario bureaucrats still don't get it, it takes two sides of the river to build a bridge between Windsor and Detroit. Michigan Senator Alan Cropsey just about puts the boots to any thought of building a DRIC bridge. Never mind that the process is still ongoing, he's not afraid to let everybody know what he thinks. And given his position in the Michigan Legislature, it means a lot.

If you haven't listened to the video clip, you should do so as well. It is important not only to read his words but to listen to his voice as he speaks. (He looks and sounds a little bit like Jimmy Stewart doesn't he. Maybe he can star in a movie, say "Mr. Smith goes to Lansing").

Read the transcript of his interview with Melanie Deveau for yourself. I believe that it is an important interview since it certainly lets us know what the other side of the river thinks. We can stop fussing about Greenlink for a bit and figure out that what Government should be doing is talking to the Ambassador Bridge Company to speed up their Enhancement Project, not delay it

The Senator makes it very clear that Michigan is no financial position to build a DRIC bridge, especially after paying for the Ambassador Gateway project. Why should the State put in a penny if the private enterprise Bridge Company is prepared to do so. I certainly would not want to be a representative of MDOT given the Senator's view of their waste of money on the DRIC study.

And if everybody is so concerned about the environment and pollution, perhaps they may wish to consider the Senator's comments with respect to the dirt being sent into the Windsor air from the Detroit Coke plant area if the DRIC bridge is built, assuming of course that it does not fall down because of the salt mines' cavities.

He slams those that advocate for a public bridge by stating that the private Ambassador Bridge was able to react more quickly than any other crossing after 9/11. He warns us that the not only will tolls be about three times higher at the DRIC bridge but that in order to make it competitive with the Ambassador Bridge, taxpayers would have to subsidize it for decades.

Feb. 1, 2008

Melanie Deveau: A new border crossing between Windsor and Detroit is far from being a done deal and while we seem to think that it is, except we are going to fight for the plan we want for the road leading to the new border, over across the border there is a different mindset.

As a matter of fact, there are some people who say that the DRIC study should not even go on - the study itself let alone the public building of a new bridge.

Well joining me to talk about just where the situation stands is Allan Cropsey, He is Majority floor leader in the Michigan Senate and a state Republican Senator representing District 33. Good afternoon and welcome to Windsor Senator.

Senator Cropsey: Melanie, good talking to you.

Deveau: My first question is who do you think’s going to be the next president, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

Cropsey: I think John McCain

Deveau: Sorry, I couldn't help myself. All right, let’s talk about this border crossing. I have been reading quite a few articles lately and talking with some people. It sounds like in Michigan, that there is no guarantee that we are going to have another border crossing. Is that correct?

Cropsey: I think it is just the opposite. It's a, and I wouldn't say it is a guarantee either way but I think it leans heavily against another border crossing.

Deveau: Is the mindset - if Matty Maroun and the Ambassador Bridge Company are going to build their new bridge and its going to be big, its going to be better and we don't need to spend public money on another?

Cropsey: Oh exactly. And very frankly, you know the current Ambassador Bridge is at about 50 to 60 percent capacity. It is not like the current bridge is even being used at capacity and they are willing to build another bridge that’s 50 percent more capacity than the current bridge. Oh absolutely.

There is another part of it too, and that is the Gateway project. The people of the Sate of Michigan are investing $200 million into the Gateway project that makes the Ambassador Bridge from the Michigan side that much more feasible.

Deveau: Oh it is going to make things so much easier getting on to the I-75.

Cropsey: Oh absolutely.

Deveau: Well then, where do we go from here because there are people over here who really think that - they are positive this is going to happen. Where is the communication been do you think?

Cropsey: Well, yeah, I really don't know. I think first of all that there was some talk earlier on that, that the Ambassador Bridge would not be twinned and that in the future there would be the necessity for a new bridge.

But I think with the Ambassador Bridge, with the Moroun family saying, no they are going to do it, they have bought the property, they've got everything ready to go, just about, just waiting for the last permit I believe from the US side, that once that happens, they will start construction immediately.

Deveau: I understand that you and Senate majority leader Michael Bishop actually have some real concerns about the location that is being suggested for a new bridge span as well. Environmental concerns.

Cropsey: There is two huge problems with the proposed location and I believe on the US side there are like two or three different proposals to have the landing on the US side.

Two of those landings go right on to the old Detroit Coke plant, which is one of the most heavily polluted sites along that stretch of river, and I mean, if you are going to be stirring up all that dust and dirt and everything else and the prevailing westerly winds - I don't think people on the Canadian side are going to say we don't want all that dirt stirred up and blowing over here to Windsor. OK. And that is a very real possibility of that happening. The fact is I don't know how you can get away from that.

And plus that, no matter which site you go on we're, they're still trying to figure out where the old salt mines are. When they were mining the salt, the different ways it was mined, that you have cavities underneath the surface and that is one reason why the DRIC studies on the United States side, have been so extremely expensive saying, look we want to make sure that the bridge is going to land and how much shoring up, how deep will we have to go down, in order to make sure that the surface doesn't collapse and the bridge go down with it.

Deveau: Can Michigan afford this project?

Cropsey: No, no. Right now definitely not.

I mean, I believe that it was Citigroup, one of the big Wall Street firms, did an analysis of a new bridge crossing, and assuming that the taxpayers weren't going to subsidize a bridge, they figured the tolls would have to be two and a half to three times larger than what the tolls are right now for people to go across the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge.

Deveau: Who is going to pay that?

Cropsey: Well if they want to make it competitive with the Ambassador Bridge, it will be the taxpayers having to subsidize every single garbage truck that goes across or every single car that goes across.

Deveau: Oh boy, this, how political is this right now Senator?

Cropsey: I don't think there is a partisan political part of this OK. I think it is the taxpayers of the State of Michigan saying, why do we need this new bridge if the current bridge isn't at capacity and yet those people, the private sector is willing to build it. Why is another bridge really needed?

Deveau: Some people would suggest that it has never been a problem of volume, it has been a Customs problem. That we don't have enough Customs booths and Customs officers and that is why sometimes things get backed up. Do you think that is an accurate assessment?

Cropsey: I think at one point that would have been an accurate assessment especially right after 9/11 where we did have very significant backups.

But since that time the Ambassador Bridge, they have expanded the number of Customs booths, they have brought in new equipment so the scans can go much more rapidly and we don't have the backup problems now that we did especially right after 9/11.

In fact, right after 9/11, the Ambassador Bridge being privately owned, most, most rapidly adapted to the situation and was able to get the traffic moving faster than almost any other crossing, I believe than any other crossing in the United States.

Deveau: Are you in favour of the DRIC study going through to fruition at this point?

Cropsey: Well, at this point, and I will tell you that this is where we were, is that a year and a half ago or so the Michigan Legislature said that we don't want any more monies spent on the DRIC study.

Our Michigan Department of Transportation, in violation of the spirit of what the Michigan Legislature said, went ahead and committed itself and a lot of federal funds to the study. Now what we have ended up with this last year then, was that if we don't complete the study, the State of Michigan pay back like about $17 million to the Federal Government.

Deveau: Oooh

Cropsey: So we said, no it is better to spend the $2 million to complete the study and, a total of $33, $34 million dollars altogether, it would be better to complete the study so we won’t have to pay back to the Federal Government. But I think overall for the taxpayers, this has not been a good deal at all for the study.

It is going to be horrible, if a bridge is built, the taxpayers will end up subsidizing this thing for decades to come.

Deveau: Well Senator I appreciate you talking with me and being so open about this. Maybe we can talk again down the road and see if anything changes.

Cropsey: Oh, I would love to do that.

Deveau: Thank you very much for your time.

Cropsey: And stay inside and keep warm today.

Deveau: Absolutely. Take care. That's Michigan Republican Senator Allan Cropsey. So that is a bit of an eyeopener seeing where the situation stands on the Michigan side while we are bickering about whether we are going to have our Greenlink proposal or the Province and the Feds are going to ram something down our throat. Know this. This project might not actually happen because we can't do it on our own.