Even More Border News
There is so much going on that it is becoming virtually impossible to keep track of it. More importantly, it is getting more and more difficult to make any sense out of it since it is so confusing. It is almost information overload.
Let me try and give you in point form my thoughts after reading so much in the last few days. There is absolutely no significance to the order in which I am setting out the facts. Rather I’m looking at a number of articles and commenting on them:
Crains Detroit ran a number of stories in their latest edition to try and summarize where everything is right now. This followed an Editorial in one of the major Detroit dailies. Does this mean that the Americans are starting to take a look at the border file more seriously?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the front page picture of Matthew Moroun in Crains Detroit probably will cause a number of heart attacks in four Government capitals.
Just as the Globe and Mail story was significant as far as I am concerned since it said that Matty Moroun was not going to be intimidated by a bunch of bureaucrats who were trying to force him out of business at a cheap price, this photograph is symbolic as well.
Normally one would have expected a photograph of his Father or that of Dan Stamper. My belief is that his photograph is a statement to the Governments. It was deliberately done, just like his attending at the Senate hearings in Ottawa. First, it says that he is intimately involved in the border crossing file. Second, is the statement that the Ambassador Bridge is a “family asset” and that his family does not intend to have it stolen away from them.
If there was a view that he would be more willing to dispose of it, unlike his Father, and perhaps even cheaply just to put money into the bank, those thoughts ought to be at an end now.
The bureaucrats and certain politicians misjudged again just as they did before about his Father!
Another day and finally a story in the Windsor Star that Detroit wants $100 million for its interest in the Tunnel revenues. What took them so long?
Is the whole Tunnel deal a farce?
Has anyone asked Eddie how much money he has for the deal or is it better not to know? This way one can pretend there is a hope of balancing the budget. If you are a Detroit Mayor and want to buy time, do you just put in any amount into your budget for what the Tunnel deal is worth?
I can just hear this conversation
- “Mayor, we need another $25 million to balance the budget.”
- “Not a problem, make that Tunnel deal $100M, not $75 million. We are not going to do it anyway but that will keep the Credit Ratings agencies off our back for a while”
Expect Windsor to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars more in legal fees if Eddie decides he still has an interest. The Bond Buyer newsletter states
- “Pending approval by the City Council, the city hopes to close the lease deals by December, 2009.”
Why do the media keeps saying that Kilpatrick wanted to “sell” the tunnel when he did not. Oh I know, it makes it easier to “lease” the Tunnel or the revenues for years and years and years---40, 50, 75 or 99 years--and still say that we “own” it.
Check out Chris Schnurr’s BLOG. It is absolutely devastating to our Mayor. http://chrisschnurr.wordpress.com/2009/02/01/your-family-first-no-to-the-tunnel-deal/
Why would a Windsor citizen have to go to the Province to get an answer about something owned by the City. And why wouldn't Windsor's Tunnel person know the answers?
The #1 item on Eddie’s Wish List is the Tunnel Plaza Improvements. Presumably, this project is “shovel ready” in order to be eligible for the Government funding.
Why would the Government fund something that the City already agreed to pay in its Agreement with the Senior Levels? More importantly, it is very clear from what MTO has said that this project is nowhere ready to be built at this time.
What does this say about Windsor’s credibility with respect to its entire list of items that need to be done? Should they all be audited to see whether in fact they meet the Government Criteria? What a disgrace.
If one is to do a Tunnel deal with Detroit, one ought to have traffic projections to make an informed decision what the revenues would be. Here is what is said
- “The information pertaining to traffic conditions was presented during PIC 2. The PIC materials can be viewed under: [Website link here]...
As part of the remaining work for this study, the traffic numbers will be further updated.”
I did go to that web page and here is what I found there:
- “Although the traffic queuing problems have lessened somewhat recently, it is anticipated that the amount of traffic using the Tunnel will grow in the future.”
In other words, they have no projections.
Just so you know, this statement was written before US DRIC said that they would take away about 25% of the business of the Tunnel.
Do you remember how difficult it was for MDOT to tell Senator Cropsey about how toll credits could be used?
- “Moroun's construction expenditures over the years, plus toll revenue, could be used to generate up to $2 billion in credits to cover the state or local match on other federally funded transportation projects.”
I do not think that MDOT understands the concept yet from reading their comments in Crains. It might be useful if they went to the DOT website and saw how other States in the US used the toll credits effectively both for roads and for public transportation.
Oh silly me, they cannot do that. If they did, then the Michigan Legislators might understand the value of building the Enhancement Project by using toll credits properly.
If there is no value to the Toll Credits according to MDOT, then why did Crains say
- “MDOT has sent two letters to Moroun asking to explore the toll credit funding."
There is a new bridge expert in town. Let’s call him TermLimited and needing a job with a Public Authority Steve Tobocman. Thank goodness that he is finally on the side of the Ambassador Bridge now and probably would condemn the failure of the City of Windsor to look after their own bridge.
It was stated
- "Tobocman, who favors government ownership of border infrastructure, also questioned the need to replace the Ambassador Bridge.
“There are plenty of bridges a lot older than 80 years old. We did a lot of wonderful engineering in the 1920s,” he said.”
Clearly, this is a direct attack on all of the critics of the Bridge Company who said they were not looking after their Bridge properly. Too bad that Steve did not go all the way and have the nerve to come out in favour of the Bridge Company.
It is clear now that the new IBTA is the new Canadian FIRA that Herb Gray tried to use years ago against the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge and was unsuccessful. I guess the theory must be: If at first you do not succeed...
- “Transport Canada, the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Transportation, [says] the bridge company will then need federal Canadian approval under the 2006 International Bridges and Tunnel Act.”
That should be good for a dozen years of litigation like the last time.
Congratulations to Today’s Trucking Magazine.
They analyzed the Federal Budget and identified all of the money that the Federal Government was going to pour into various crossings across Canada including the money to be paid for improvements to the bridges in Fort Erie and Sarnia. They made the point:
- “Absent from the budget are any plans to improve the Ambassador Bridge, Canada's busiest border crossing, connecting Windsor, Ont., with Detroit.”
I wonder if this would be considered actionable discrimination. If so, that ought to be good for a dozen years of litigation as well.
SEAN O’DELL IS WRONG. SEAN O’DELL IS WRONG.
Crains again stated the obvious:
- “No one disputes border traffic is down, the latest numbers showing 1.7 million fewer cars and trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge in 2008 than the year before. That's a 19 percent decline, and mirrors a trend since 2001."
Here is the most troubling part. If the following is what the State of Michigan actually believes, then their economy is in serious trouble because the Government does not understand what is going on in the world today:
- “The decline is temporary, and traffic will rise and require a second bridge, Schrek said.
“In the last 35 years, this is the fourth period of flat growth at the crossing,” he said. “It always restarts again. This is cyclical. Michigan is blessed with two of the busiest border crossings in North America.”
If only Transport Canada was not a year late on their investment grade traffic survey or if Eddie had done one on the Tunnel, we would know what the latest traffic projections are. One would have to be foolish not to suspect that they are horrible and that is why they have not been released!
Even our Mayor has recognized that the transformation going on is not cyclical but structural. Don’t the people in the Governor’s office read the newspapers these days?
I wonder if Sean O'Dell saw this too that was claimed in the Sarnia Observer:
- "They've just announced layoffs at the Blue Water Bridge because of a lack of traffic," he said. "Why are they barging ahead, so they can fix the overpasses for the mayor of Point Edward? They're laying off nurses and spending $45 million on a highway we don't need."
The Bridge Company is exactly right in what they are saying
- “The Morouns agree that traffic will eventually increase, but say another bridge crossing isn't needed until statistics prove it is necessary.”
Why would anyone want to spend the billions of dollars today that are not needed and jeopardize financially the other crossings in the region by taking away traffic from them.
As I have said before, if one wants to justify DRIC, then one need say that they have identified the road to the border and where a new bridge might be necessary in the future once it appears that the Ambassador Bridge is really actually close to capacity. It is at 50-60% or perhaps even less now capacity.
Now you should understand the game, dear reader. Governments will say whatever is necessary to be said, even if some of the comments are questionable, in order to protect their desire to beat the Moroun family. They are not completely stupid but do recognize, as was said by the Peace Bridge General Manager, that traffic volumes can no longer justify the building of a new Bridge in this area. In fact, the MDOT spokesperson echoed what Mr. Rienas said
- "We need both (bridges),” said Bill Schreck, the agency's communications manager.
“The business community is telling us that they need better access and mobility at the border.”
Nothing about capacity here.
Moreover, and the bridge in British Colombia is just the latest example, P3 investors just don’t have the money to finance these projects. In fact, the Government needs to do so as it is doing in BC by investing $800M or the project would have died.
Why is this being done? Some of the points I raised above plus all of the harangues by Eddie/Estrin and his colleagues at City Council are designed to try to get the Bridge Company to sue. The hope is that litigation over years and years will take place to give time for the economy to improve and for traffic to increase. Accordingly, a decade from now, there would be justification again for more phony numbers about what traffic will do in the future so that Great Grandson of DRIC can be built.
Poor Matthew Moroun. One does not need to read tea leaves to understand what his relationship with the Governments will be in the future. At the least, his Father is giving him some good training in how to beat them at their own game!
There is more that I could write about but I am sure that by now you get my drift about what is happening. It is a process that is completely out of control designed by people who thought that they could control the universe with their wonderful Business Plans but who perhaps have understood that the world works the way it chooses to work.
I think that I will just let Crains have the final comment:
- “In the meantime, there's an air of inevitability about the second Ambassador Bridge span.
Its new ramp, roadway and customs booths on the Windsor side are done and await only the installation of the span itself. The Detroit side is close behind, with the new ramp open in the mornings for traffic onto the old span.
Canadian officials have been critical of a new Ambassador span because of traffic concerns in Windsor, something Blashfield said can be overcome with alternative routes available in the city.
The bridge company's public comments, and use of lobbyists to push their case in Lansing, have drawn the ire of DRIC's backers.”
Yes, for DRIC supporters, hearing the truth is very uncomfortable!