Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 11, 2008

Killing DRIC Using Their Own Words

It's my longest BLOG ever. It is probably not something that you will read over a coffee or at lunch.

However, if you have any interest in the border file, or more importantly the economic survival of our region, then you need to read this BLOG! You have not seen all of the the information elsewhere before. One obvious consequence: stop the US$75M Tunnel deal before Windsor goes broke!

Do not read this BLOG for what I am writing but rather what the US consultants for DRIC have written already in their Environmental Impact Statement. It is what the border battle is really about as I have speculated for so long.

Their report tells us so much now, at last. Print it out and take it home with you to read or read it in the evening when you have some time to devote to it. It is a long but easy read that I have tried to make easier for you with explanatory notes. You need to read it carefully and to digest the information fully.

We are all being played for fools. We are nothing more than pawns in the game, used by all levels of Government on both sides of the river to meet their objectives. Anything goes it seems, no matter what obviously.

US DRIC claims its exercise will cost $31M. Let us assume that the Canadian DRIC will be comparable. To put it in a readily understandable context, the cost of DRIC is about the cost of our new East End arena! And for what?

Can't people see the Ambassador Gateway cranes working! I-75 is closed for 18 months for this project for heaven's sake. The project was designed over a decade ago to accommodate a second span. The Bridge Co. has spent around $500M of its own money so far. They are not going to give up their business without a fight just because some bureaucrat is trying to pressure them. And the US Governments are spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Just to duplicate facilities downriver to meet Canadian demands in times of economic hardship. Get real!

It should disgust you and make you sick at the waste. It should make you wonder what this DRIC process is really all about other than the destruction of a community. Why--- in order to put an AMERICAN private enterprise business out of business by refighting the FIRA battle that was supposedly settled forever by the Canadian Government about 15 years ago.

You will see how we have been fooled on our side of the river but more importantly how the people of Delray had been put upon by promises that could never be kept. You will see how Governments in the name of progress don't care about people, especially the poor and minorities, when bureaucratic agendas are at stake. You'll see the vindictiveness of Governments who are trying to destroy the business of an entrepreneur who at his expense has made the Windsor/Detroit crossing the best crossing in North America and the number one crossing as well. All so that they can give his business to another private operator in a P3 deal for the next hundred years while wasting taxpayer dollars.

Here are some things that you should consider as you read the materials:
  1. when this process started, the idea was to remove some of the trucks from Windsor to make our life more livable by diverting trucks to the Blue Water Bridge and to rail and marine. Not anymore... the new DRIC bridge will bring traffic and more trucks to Windsor
  2. DRIC effectively admits that its traffic projections are phony and that traffic volumes will not increase. In effect, the only way that they could convince a private investor to put hundreds of millions into a crossing is by bankrupting every other crossing in the region
  3. why will trucks go to a new DRIC bridge when the tolls of the Ambassador Bridge will be a third to a quarter of their tolls? They will have to force trucks to go to the new DRIC bridge on a mandatory basis resulting in a massive lawsuit and more problems for our border crossing and for our region
  4. the residents of Delray are fodder for the DRIC bridge. Who cares that it will be virtually impossible for them to find a home since their homes are worth so little money now. It does not matter... hopes of revitalization of the community can be given to them as a carrot to keep them all quiet even though MDOT cannot do anything, the City of Detroit has no money to do anything and it will depend on private enterprise to redevelop the community when to date private enterprise has shown no interest in doing so
  5. the residents of Delray have no ability to fight against DRIC given their demographics. It made it easy to destroy them.
  6. where are the howls of outrage by the West end activists and politicos who said that Delray was like family to them. Can you imagine what would happen if the Ambassador Bridge Company said that they wanted to undertake a project on the Windsor side similar to what DRIC wants to do in Delray
  7. residents of Sandwich were outraged when DRIC claimed that the Bridge Company would destroy Sandwich if their Plaza had to be expanded to up to 120 -- 140 acres, something that was not true. DRIC is doing this in Delray.

As I post excerpts from the DRIC EIS, I will interject some comments for you to consider as well.

Corridors and Gateways are absolutely essential for Canada's future. It is our trade connection to the United States and to our continued economic prosperity by allowing us access to their markets. Actions taken by our Canadian Governments to preserve our economic position should be applauded shouldn't they.

However, not when Government actions are absurd.

The DRIC process has gone off the tracks. It is a farce.

It keeps changing as the reality is known. Who needs a new bridge when four customs booths ended the truck backups. Who needs to build lanes in the sky as a parking lot when the object of the exercise is to get through Customs quickly. Who needs to risk taxpayer money when private enterprise is prepared to risk theirs. New systems will make the border virtually seamless at a time when the Ambassador Gateway project itself can handle about 60-70% more trucks than are handled today IE 5.4 million compared with just over 3 million trucks crossing the border now.

But DRIC is a phony. It is part of an agenda. It has nothing to do with corridors and gateways in the Windsor area. Here, the object is to destroy the Ambassador Bridge Company. You think I jest. Here is what a representative of Transport Canada said at the Senate hearings with respect to the Bridge Company:

  • "Ms. Marcoux: The intent of this bill is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge. The intent of this bill is to ensure that the government fulfills its constitutional obligation and that it has the tools to do so.
  • The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge."

Reconcile that statement with the fact that

  • "A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative."

Bill C-3 was nothing more than FIRA in a different suit. Take a look at the ownership rules and the ability to micromanage a business. Gord Henderson gave it away in his column a few weeks ago. I wrote at the time:

  • "What Gord writes tells me now that the border fight is not about capacity, redundancy or security. It is not about the economic well-being of Canada or the United States. It is all about some people who lost before to Moroun who cannot forgive him, even after all this time, for beating them and keeping control of the bridge:
  • "But we surely understand now why Herb Gray moved heaven and earth, as Liberal minister responsible for FIRA (Foreign Investment Review Agency) in the early 1980s, in a failed effort to prevent Moroun's trucking empire from acquiring the Canadian half of the bridge. That battle was lost in the federal courts and ended with an out-of-court settlement following a marathon legal struggle."

Start reading the excerpts from the US DRIC Report now. I hope you enjoy the explanation so you can undersdtand what is really going on:

The bridge for the border crossing and the impacts to the social fabric from the proposed project will “land” in Delray, a Detroit neighborhood.

Delray Neighborhood Today

[The demographis of Delray and why it was chosen to be the sacrifical community]

The Delray neighborhood is located in census tracts 5235, 5236 and 5237. Data from the 2000 Census indicate that Delray’s ethnic composition is African American (32.3%), Caucasian (32.4%) and Hispanic (Mexican & Puerto Rican) (30.2%) (Table 3-2A). The Hungarian community, once dominant in Delray, now has a very small presence after declining over the last 30 years.

In the Delray neighborhood there are 1,420 Households and 922 families...The most-common type of Other-Family reported in the 2000 Census is “Female Householder/No Husband Present,” which constituted about 51 percent of total families. Slightly more than 40 percent of the Delray households live below the poverty level...

Those living in Delray with a college education represent three percent of the total population...

The unemployment rate in Delray according to the 2000 Census was about 11 percent. The comparable statistic for the SEMCOG region in the 2000 Census was six percent. [The demographics show how poor this area is and how easily it can be manipulated with dreams of revitalization due to a new bridge.]

Hispanics are moving into Delray for a variety of reasons, particularly, the affordability of housing. A house in need of repair can be purchased for as little as $15,000. Information gained in a number of interviews indicates fixing the house is accomplished through the “sweat equity” of immediate and extended family members who are often skilled tradesmen. [Even with a 25% expropriation premium, where will these families go and find suitable replacement accommodation?]

Overall, between 324 to 414 dwelling units would be acquired and the occupants relocated, depending on the alternative examined. This includes the two apartment buildings (one north of I-75 and one south) that together total 100 dwelling units. There are also a number of duplexes/triplexes in the area... [Almost 25% of the units in the area! Imagine if it was 25% of Sandwich]

Between 41 and 56 active businesses could be relocated depending on the DRIC alternative (Table 3-3). They provide an estimated 685 to 920 jobs, based on information gained in interviews... [And where are they now going to relocate to startup? And where are the residents who work for those businesses in Delray to find new jobs especially when many lack cars?]

Other notable relocations of community facilities include: up to seven churches; the Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) offices on Livernois Avenue (all Build Alternatives); and, the CHASS Medical Clinic (all Build Alternatives but #14). It is critical to relocate CHASS in the area to serve the needy, low-income population with little access to an automobile.

MDOT will inform individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations of the impact, if any, of the project on their property. Every effort will be made, through relocation assistance, to lessen the impact when it occurs. [How will that be accomplished, with a one-time payment of cash and then let them sink or swim on their own?]

Project development now addresses Environmental Justice (EJ) in an attempt to prevent such disproportionate impacts. The EJ policy stated in Executive Order 12898 has three major parts:
• Avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects, including social and economic effects of the project, on minority populations and low-income populations...

The Delray Study Area encompassed 40,435 people in 2000, 69 percent of whom were minority...

Almost 32 percent of the households in the study area have annual incomes below the poverty level...

[The disaster for Delray specifically listed] The Build Alternatives would have an adverse effect on EJ and Title VI population groups. These potential impacts would include the following.

• Between 324 and 414 households would be relocated.
• Between 685 and 920 jobs may be relocated from the Delray area. Some are held by minorities and low-income people. This is particularly the case because those businesses taking advantage of the Empowerment Zone tax credits must employ local residents to gain those credits.
• Three cultural resources which are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the Berwalt Manor apartment building, would be lost • Up to seven places of worship would be lost (Section 3.1.4, Table 3-3).
• The CHASS (Community Health and Social Services) Center would be relocated by the project. It serves the needy, low-income population, many of whom have no access to an automobile.
• The Rademacher Recreation Center, although now closed, would be eliminated.
So, would Rademacher Park and one small playlot.
• Normal traffic patterns would be disrupted and travel made more difficult because interchanges with I-75 will be closed/modified and a number of streets crossing
I-75 would be closed.
• Three bus lines would be rerouted so they can still serve the people of the area. This is particularly important because the population affected has relatively low access to an automobile.
• Between two and four of five pedestrian crossings of I-75 would be removed. MDOT will work with the community to re-establish pedestrian access in the area. was determined that there would be adverse impacts to both minority and non-minority population groups in the Delray Study Area...

As the Practical Alternatives are further evaluated, there may be disproportionately high and adverse effects on low-income population groups in the Delray Study Area. Such impacts may include, but are not limited to, disruptions to community cohesion, possible isolation, and loss of economic vitality...

[Projecting job numbers. Is DRIC any more accurate than with their traffic volume errors? The Enhancement Project could accomplish the same since the solution is throughput not capacity. It is now the prosperity of the State vs. the residents of Delray] The economic analysis done as part of the DRIC Study determined that without more border-crossing capacity the opportunity to attract 25,000 jobs to the State of Michigan in 2035 would be lost. Ontario would not attract 16,500 jobs. Almost all of these jobs would be in manufacturing and related sectors. To the State of Michigan this represents a potential income tax loss of about $500 million in 2035 alone. At the same time, the introduction of a new crossing would change the accessibility of the area and slightly impact population and employment growth.

[Look at what Windsor is losing by Eddie's stalling. Of course, the Enhancement Project produces comparable jobs and spending] Building the DRIC project would result in spending $1.28 to $1.49 billion (labor, materials, etc.) on the U.S. side of the border causing a positive ripple effect in the local economy. Data available from the FHWA indicate seven full-time equivalent jobs are generated for every million dollars of construction spending per year (Year 2000 dollars). A recent study of MDOT’s Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal Project found a similar multiplier. The FHWA analysis also found that 18 indirect jobs would be supported per million dollars of construction spending per year. So, the DRIC alternatives are expected to generate 8,939 to 10,416 direct jobs and 22,986 to 26,784 indirect jobs over the period 2010 to 2013 from construction spending on the U.S. side of the border.

Bridge operations would support a permanent staff of approximately 775 estimated as follows: 400 at Customs and Border Protection; 200 brokers; 70 at tolls; 20 at maintenance; 75 at duty free; and 10 in administration. [DUH....why spend money on duplication of staffing too! This could run to $50-60M per year depending on salary and benefits! These are ongoing costs as well for the life of the bridge that someone has to pay. Wouldn't it make more sense to deploy staff more efficiently at existing crossings to eliminate back-ups]

[The carrot to keep the Community quiet until it is too late! Exploring, studying, refining...telling people what they WANT to hear!] MDOT, in partnership with FHWA is exploring a number of concepts by which enhancements may be made to the Delray area as it becomes the “host community” for the DRIC project. These concepts include partnering with the private sector and with other government agencies in areas such as job training, small business development, improving and replacing housing stock, and other community enhancing amenities. Depending on comments from stakeholders and community leaders, these concepts may continue to be studied and refined as the DRIC Study moves toward the selection of the Preferred Alternative, which will be addressed in the FEIS... ["Host Community." What a wonderful euphemism. It sounds like Delray is the location for the Olymic Games and not a 6-lane bridge!]

[Bankrupting other crossings] Providing a new border crossing would cause travel shifts over a wide area. For example, a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could attract travelers from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron, Michigan. At the same time, the proposed border crossing would reduce traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel... [Why spend $440M in Port Huron for a new plaza just to take away their traffic!]

Table 3-11B provides further definition of how traffic on the DRIC alternatives is drawn from other border crossings in the Port Huron/Sarnia and Detroit River areas in the 2035 PM peak hour. It illustrates the following: [All to attract the P3 investor since traffic numbers are down! This is the fatal flaw in DRIC!]
  • A seven percent decline in overall auto traffic on the Blue Water Bridge and a 16 to 18 percent decline in overall truck traffic with the introduction of a proposed DRIC crossing in the 2035 PM peak hour. The decline is expected to be greater in the peak U.S.-to-Canada direction than the Canada-to-U.S. direction.
    The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel would register a 20 to 26 percent decline in total traffic , with the most significant reduction expected to occur in auto traffic in the U.S.-to-Canada peak direction. [Eddie is out of business]
    • With Alternative Set #1/2/3/14/16 and Alternative #5, the Ambassador Bridge would realize a 37 to 39 percent reduction in car traffic. Also, with Alternative Set #1/2/3/14/16 and Alternative #5, the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of 75 percent of its truck traffic.
    • With Alternative Set #7/9/11, the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of only 30 percent of its car traffic and a reduction of 54 percent of its truck traffic. The increased travel time of Alternative Set #7/9/11 compared to the other DRIC alternatives causes retention of car traffic at the Ambassador Bridge...

The traffic volume assignments for the Ambassador Bridge and proposed DRIC crossings are highly sensitive to travel time differences. A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative...

Travel demand modeling shows a new bridge would cause travel shifts over a broad area, including drawing traffic from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron/Sarnia. Its greatest effect would be on Ambassador Bridge traffic.

Considering the Ambassador Bridge together with a new bridge, a proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic and 60 percent of all traffic in the 2035 afternoon peak hour...

[Killing the need for Greenlink] Substantial emission factor reductions are shown for passenger vehicles and trucks. A positive influence on emission factor trends is that the future vehicle mix will include an increasing proportion of very-low-polluting vehicles, such as hybrids...

However, it is recognized that stricter vehicle emission controls and fuel standards being put into place will result in future mobile source (vehicular) pollution being less than it is in 2008.

Efficiencies can be expected from increased enrollment in the NEXUS and FAST programs when a clear lane through the border area becomes available with the DRIC project... [That is what the Enhancement Project does by adding a third lane.]

On the Canadian side, they reflect the impacts of the crossing and plaza because at this point, the Canadian analysis of the Practical Alternatives for the access road is not complete. Nonetheless, work to date does not support further analysis of two alternatives for the access road: an end-to-end at-grade roadway or tunnel. Although an at-grade solution was found to be the least costly solution and carried fewer constructability risks, this alternative offers fewer benefits in terms of protecting community and neighborhood characteristics in comparison to the other alternatives. Similarly, the analysis did not support further investigation of an endto-end tunnel. The limited additional benefits of an end-to-end tunnel solution do not justify the associated additional cost, when other solutions are available that offer similar benefits at less cost and with less risks during construction.

While an end-to-end tunnel alternative offers some advantages to air quality in the immediate corridor through lower particulate concentrations compared to the do-nothing alternative, through improvements to fuels and technology all the alternatives provide this same benefit to some degree.
• The benefits offered by an end-to-end tunnel in reducing particulate concentrations are offset somewhat by increases in concentrations of gaseous pollutants emitted over a larger area beyond the access road corridor from the ventilation buildings and these cannot be captured with current pollution control technology

The cost of the end-to-end tunnel was found to be three to six times more expensive than the other alternatives under consideration, representing a difference of between $2.5 and $3 billion. These costs are reflective of both the increased effort and materials needed to construct an end-to-end tunnel as well as the increased construction risks and complexities.

[DRIC road is the choice!] As a result, a “parkway” alternative, with a number of short tunnels, has been developed to reflect the Canadian analyses to date and agency/public input. The Canadian study team will complete the technical and environmental studies of the access road in the spring of 2008.

[Now the Americans are projecting Canadian advantages as well! I wonder how inaccurate they are too. We are viewed as foolishly as Delray residents. Of course, the Enhancement Project provides the same opportunities but shhhh, do not tell DRIC] Accessibility improvements are projected to be more significant in Windsor/Essex County than in the SEMCOG part of the bi-national metropolitan area. This could lead to increased development including more jobs, if local governing bodies so choose. From a trade perspective, it is estimated that the Windsor-Essex region accounts for more than three percent, or $7.5 billion, of Ontario’s international export GDP. Any improvement to the speed and efficiency of goods and services crossing the border would have a major positive impact on the economy of the Windsor-Essex region as well as the economy of the Province of Ontario. This expected improvement in trade would benefit numerous industrial businesses, improving gross revenues and increasing employment. Furthermore, there would be much greater opportunity for future industrial development along the Highway 401 corridor.

The benefits would also be positive for commercial and tourism-related businesses. The new border crossing and highway connection would increase the speed and ease of travel, increasing the number of people traveling through the Windsor-Essex region and southern Ontario. This would enhance existing businesses and future opportunities for numerous commercial and tourism-related businesses in these areas, especially along Highway 401. The improved movement of goods would also positively affect these businesses, as supplies would be transported more quickly and efficiently.

[DesRosiers slammed this section!] U.S. and Canada: It is expected that local businesses may develop or expand in several sectors related to a new border crossing. Such change would be associated with an increase in local jobs. This would then help the local tax base grow. But, it is recognized that much of the cross-border trade in the Detroit-Windsor area is tied to the auto industry. While American auto companies are struggling now, the U.S. demand in 2035 for new automotive vehicles is forecast at 26 million.19 This is a 53 percent increase from the 16 to 17 million current annual U.S. consumption of autos/trucks. This growth is similar to that which occurred over the last 20 years, when 15 new auto plants were built in North America, eight of which were built in “northern” locations (e.g., Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario, Canada). The implication is that another dozen auto manufacturing plants will be built in the U.S. and Canada in the next 20 to 30 years. With a new border crossing, Michigan and Ontario will be in a position to gain 25,000 to 35,000 new jobs.

By helping to build partnerships among federal, state and local agencies and the private sector, the ability to influence this pattern in a positive manner is enhanced. In this regard, the Build Alternatives have significant potential to: build on the transportation and industrial strength of the study area; make improvements to push unwanted truck traffic out of residential areas; create public/private partnerships to advance a “doable” revitalization effort in Delray; create some jobs which can be directed to people in the local areas around the project; and, prepare/train community residents to be able to take those jobs. [Part of the MegaProjects justification. What a perfect example for the Danish Professor to use in the next edition of his book!]

[Costs are phony too! Another part of the Professor's book for Megaprojects!] The U.S. cost of the combined bridge, plaza, interchange and associated property and utilities ranges from $1.277 billion for Crossing X-14 with a cable-stay bridge to $1.488 billion for Crossing X-16 with a suspension bridge...

These costs will be updated once the Preferred Alternative is chosen. At that time, costs will be provided in the terms of the year in which they will occur, meaning the costs will be inflated to each year of construction.

[Oversight really means Government ownership. Another euphemism] The Partnership is committed to maintaining public oversight of the crossing and has established that it will be governed by one of several models:
• Government owned and operated (similar to the U.S. half of the Blue Water Bridge);
• Public-private partnership – concession with government ownership;
• Bi-national Authority (similar to the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
with government ownership; or,
• Private-sector owned and operated with government oversight.

This evaluation is being combined with legislative efforts to allow Michigan to enter into an agreement with Canada to implement the project and to provide authority for Public Private Partnerships. [What if the legislation is NOT passed!]

However, at this time, a Public Private Partnership is seen as a likely and viable alternative as it will foster competition in the private sector to provide governments and the public with the best value while ensuring the appropriate levels of transparency and accountability are met. [Assuming that the Bridge Co. is put out of business first because P3 investors want no competition!]

MDOT, in partnership with FHWA, is exploring a number of concepts by which enhancements may be made to the Delray area as it becomes the “host community” for the DRIC project. These concepts include partnering with the private sector and with other government agencies in areas such as job training, small business development, improving and replacing housing stock, and other community enhancing amenities. Depending on comments from stakeholders and community leaders, these concepts may continue to be studied and refined as the DRIC process moves toward the selection of the Preferred Alternative, which will be addressed in the FEIS.

[Here is something that SEMCOG wrote that is quoted in the DRIC Report. Please explain to me how this justifies such large increases in vehicular traffic that we need a new DRIC Bridge! To me, this kills DRIC]

SEMCOG, in a report issued in April 2007 titled A Region in Turbulence and Transition, states the following:
  • “Southeast Michigan’s economy is in the midst of a fundamental restructuring that has serious consequences for the region’s long-term future. This turbulence and transition is due to the shrinkage of the domestic auto industry, where the Big Three have seen their share of U.S. light-vehicle sales (cars, SUVs, vans, pickup trucks) decline from 73 percent in 1995 to 53 percent in 2006.

    “The consequences of the changes in the auto industry are profound. Losses of jobs in the region’s core industry are rippling through the economy and will be felt across many sectors, from retail to construction.

    “Southeast Michigan has lost 128,000 jobs since 2000 and will not begin to gain total jobs until 2010. By 2035, the region’s employment will have grown seven percent over 2005 levels

    “The other major factor that will affect the region in the long-term is the aging of the population. By 2035 Southeast Michigan will have 651,000 more people 65 or older and 296,000 fewer people of prime working age 25-64. This is a trend that will also be felt in the U.S. as a whole where, as in Southeast Michigan, the percentage of population 65 or older will increase dramatically. For the region, the percentage 65 or older will increase from 12 to 24 percent by 2035, and for the U.S. it will go from 12 to 20 percent.

    “Combined with more deaths in an aging population, increased out-migration is now causing Southeast Michigan’s population to decline. The region will only recover enough, beginning after 2015, to add about three percent to the population over 30 years (Figure 3-11). Southeast Michigan’s population will be 5.1
    million in 2035.”

    With these observations as background, SEMCOG reduced its 2005-2030 forecasts of growth in population (Table 3-8) and employment (Table 3-9). The changes still reflect positive, albeit, small growth.