Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moroun Is Windsor's--and Michigan's--Last Hope

Be nice to Matty Moroun. He is the only hope that Windsor--and Michigan--have now first to keep traffic moving across the border smoothly and to help in our economic diversification! And of course Canada too as I have Blogged before.

Oh I know about the Coast Guard action. It was somewhat predictable. Then the MDOT dirt piles on new pavement. The Bridge Company has to be stopped or at least delayed if the Governments' DRIC plans are to be accomplished, especially after the Bridge Company NEPA and MDOT lawsuits.
  • "The Detroit International Bridge Company said in a statement the move "smacks of retribution for a federal lawsuit filed last month by a coalition of prominent Detroit community organizations and the DIBC complaining of environmental justice and other causes of action against the U.S. Department of Transportation." The statement goes on to say the action appears "one-sided and misguided.

    “While we are perplexed and disappointed by this action, we will take all the steps necessary to address the concerns expressed by the U.S. Coast Guard and keep this vital project moving. It’s obvious to us that this abeyance letter is nothing more than the government applying political pressure on the Coast Guard to delay construction of the replacement span of the Ambassador Bridge,” said Dan Stamper, President of the Detroit International Bridge Company, in the statement. "

This is what concerned me when I first got involved in the border file 7 years ago. As a litigation lawyer, I knew that unless there were discussions between the parties, it was inevitable that there would be lawsuits filed that would tie the border up for decades. That is what happened before with the FIRA lawsuit.

It's starting.

Citizens For Jobs Now may as well close up shop unless someone smartens up or rather, they better put the pressure on to get people talking. That should be considered their Number ONE priority. They had better get vocal. Otherwise bridges and roads to bridges won't happen for a generation!

Let me explain.

Sorry Ambassador Bridge Company haters. Transport Canada Minister John Baird put the nail in the coffin of the DRIC Bridge at the recent FCM conference. It should be no surprise because the only money that Canada has in its Budget is $400M for a road to the border. No funds have been set aside for a DRIC bridge and plaza since a P3 was to deal with that and we know what has happened to the P3 market.

It was NOT in his speech but here is what he said according to the Toronto Star:
  • "At the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting, Baird identified the country's most significant infrastructure project as the $4 billion to $5 billion access road to a new border crossing near Windsor and said he is making it a personal priority.

    The project "has the attention at the highest level. The province and the federal government are on the same page. The time for action is now."

Interesting choice of language. The line was not "a road and a bridge." The comment was about the road NOT the bridge. The Province has NO role in the bridge, only the road. The DRIC bridge completion has been put back two years so far, until 2015, so "action" is hardly the word to be applied to it. The Bridge is now stuck in litigation as well.

It took a long time but it was inevitable after the Globe and Mail 2 1/2 page Saturday spread when Matty Moroun made it clear that he was not going to be terrorized by the Governments involved into selling his bridge cheaply.

We have seen the Governments scramble back and forth from capacity to security to redundancy to future economic recovery as the justification for DRIC. They even got Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe to help out.

Truck traffic---the Governments have 2 investment grade traffic surveys in 2008 and 2009 and have refused to provide me copies. Obviously there is no traffic justification

Security--Minister Van Loan actually wanted to do something at the Ambassador Bridge

  • "He also got a commitment from Napolitano that Washington will look again at the idea of what is called land pre-clearance, he said.

    Under a proposal favoured by Ottawa, American officials would check U.S.-bound trucks on the Canadian side of the border and vice versa, easing trade bottlenecks.

    Van Loan said he suggested a pilot project at the Windsor-Detroit border but nothing was settled.”

P3s are dead. If money will be used for the P3 road, my guess is that it is coming right from OMERS provided they are guaranteed a huge profit. Otherwise they cannot afford to do it

  • "The McGuinty government remains fully committed to the P3 model for building vital institutions like hospitals, even though P3s increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars for every large project. At the St Catharines General P3, private investors backed away from the project, causing the McGuinty government to scramble for financing, turning to OMERS, the Ontario municipal employees' pension fund. The terms of this deal have not been made public."

Now the flip-flop between Baird and Butler and Ambassador Wilson can be explained. The Transport Canada people had to be involved in the process to try to demonize Moroun in the eyes of the Michigan Legislators and to try to make them believe that his Enhancement Project was dead. They failed miserably and made fools of themselves with the Legislators. Wilson had to try and salvage the mess:

  • "Canadian federal authorities remain adamantly opposed to Moroun.

    "We believe that the new crossing should be subject to public oversight, and that would mean, in effect, a publicly owned bridge," said Mark Butler, a spokesman for the federal agency Transport Canada, on Thursday."

  • "Federal Transportation minister John Baird said Wednesday his government is committed to building a downriver bridge in Windsor and dismissed the Ambassador Bridge's twin span proposal."

  • Wilson in his letter I am told said that Canada had no interest in disadvantaging the Ambassador Bridge's long-term viability and that it would continue to be an integral part of the strategic Windsor/Detroit corridor.

Of course you remember ""Feds Say Bridge Treated Fairly" and the generous offer of Canada to hire an engineering firm to help them with their Plaza master plan.

Wilson, given his background with the Bridge Company was interestingly the one who was forced to eat crow. There is no doubt that Baird was not going to take responsiblity for their fuddle-duddle-up!

Don't take Baird's DRIC road comments seriously unless Ontario really wants to give some P3 operator billions in extra profits. We are being Delrayed on that still.

The Feds and Province still have to get Moroun's help to support a cheaper "interim" road to the Enhancement Project bridge so they can save face.

Why is Moroun Windsor's only hope? He is the only one who is going to build a bridge and with his money, not taxpayers', in the foreseable future. If there is no bridge, there is no DRIC road and therefore no thousands of high-paying infrastructure and other jobs.

If you really want the clincher, take a look in Michigan:

  • "$740M of Michigan roadwork axed

    State forced to cancel 137 projects after it can't come up with its share of money

    The state took another hard shot Thursday when the Michigan Department of Transportation announced it has canceled more than 137 road and bridge projects -- totaling $740 million -- due to Michigan's inability to match federal dollars. Michigan's portion of the federal match for road construction will now go to other states.

    "We are in a state of crisis when
    it comes to our transportation funding, and it is being felt in every community across the state," said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, which represents 800 construction related companies within the state. The list of canceled projects, which includes 28 high-profile projects in Metro Detroit, was part of MDOT's five-year road and bridge program presented earlier this week to the House Transportation Committee. Nearly $247.8 million would have been spent on road projects in Metro Detroit.

    "These projects are vital to Michigan's economic future," said Nystrom. "When roads are maintained, they attract new business. Economic and job growth will not happen in Michigan when MDOT is forced to cancel critical infrastructure projects."

    Under the funding formula, the federal government pays for 80 percent of road projects and requires each state to come up with the remaining 20 percent. Michigan relies on fuel and registration taxes for its transportation funding, but those revenues have fallen steadily over the past several years because Michigan motorists are driving less and buying fewer new cars.

    If Michigan can't come up with its 20 percent, it loses the 80 percent match from the federal government."

Guess whose project would help out Michigan right away with billions in federal matching grants so they can build their roads.

Perhaps Matty is Michigan's only hope too!