Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Canada Needs To Rethink Its Bridge Company Approach

I have made this argument before but, clearly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's advisors and the Bureaucrats leading the anti-Bridge Company charge do not want the PM to read my remarks. They would prefer that the PM live in Delusionville as they keep insulting the US Government.

Oh I know that Canada, and their P3 friends, are so graciously prepared to take over the border crossing problems to make life easy for their American counterparts. Just let Canada run everything here and in Sarnia/Port Huron and Buffalo/Fort Erie too. Throw in the Tunnel for good measure as well.

I guess the Dubai ports fiasco has not made its way to Ottawa yet. Or they have not yet figured out that the PM has been snubbed, twice, by President Obama. Or is someone itching for another softwood lumber fight.

It's too bad that the PM will never know about the tough shots being faced by and taken by DRIC in Michigan these days.

Never mind the comments being made by Senior Legislators in the State about the Bridge Company project being the #1 priority or DRIC being a boondoggle.

The economic reality has finally hit home to many American decision-makers who can now appreciate that the Bridge Company is prepared to spend their money on the crossing to improve traffic flow, the real concern, and take the business risks unlike the bottomless pit for taxpayer money that DRIC represents.

With Michigan's economy in the dumps, I have never understood why their Legislators would not want to receive the billions in Federal matching grants that could be used for other projects in the State, projects that the State might not be able to afford.

Think the situation in Michigan is bad now, read on about their future outlook from a Crains Detroit story:
  • "State treasurer predicts $719.3 million deficit for 2011 fiscal year

    Though lawmakers in Lansing have staved off a budget crisis this year using stimulus funding and spending cuts, falling revenue portends a fresh challenge for the 2011 fiscal year, said Michigan State Treasurer Robert Kleine during a speech at the Michigan Tax Conference on Tuesday.

    Based on the 2010 budget signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Friday, the state treasury has predicted a deficit of $719.3 million for the general fund the following year, according to data presented by Kleine at the conference.

    The main reason is that lawmakers have used stimulus funding to fix holes in the budget. Once that well dries up, the state will need to tap into taxpayers or implement more spending cuts, Kleine said...

    “We’ve never really experienced cuts of this magnitude any time in Michigan’s history, and I think the full impact is yet to be felt,” he added.

    Though the economy appears to be rebounding, Kleine said, the general fund is predicted to drop by another 6.5 percent from 2009 to 2010, which would give the state its lowest inflation-adjusted revenue total since 1965...

    “Some people say it will never get back there… but I think Michigan has too many advantages for that to happen,” he said. “I do think eventually we will get back to that 2000 level, but it’s probably going to be at least a decade.”

Poor MDOT...they are in a real pickle now too. Will they be or have they already been seduced by P3 operatives the way Canadian officials have been in order to keep projects away from Legislative oversight. Who cares if taxpayers get screwed. After all, IBG, YBG ("I'll be gone, you'll be gone"):

  • "State agencies could get 20% cut in next MI budget

    Michigan agencies are being told they could see up to a 20 percent cut in the next budget year on top of the 10 percent cut they took this year.

    Liz Boyd, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's spokeswoman, said Tuesday that departments are being asked "to put together plans that reflect a 20 percent reduction."

    Michigan has seen revenues drop in the tight economy, and will have little federal stimulus money left to use in the budget year that begins next Oct. 1."

And if that was not bad enough:

The ante has been raised. It's 9 pages of detailed opposition to the DRIC project by well-known organizations. So much for the argument that insignificant groups only oppose DRIC

  • "Critics say the lawsuit is a desperate ploy by Moroun and charge that the organizations in the lawsuit are pawns that have taken his money or are little more than fronts created to join his DRIC opposition."
I certainly liked this view expressed by MDOT's spokesperson. It is something that can be described as when the going gets tough, we run:
  • "MDOT continues to review the letter, which it received Friday, and hasn’t decided how or if it will respond, he said.

  • From Crains Detroit:

    Environmental, transportation groups urge halt to new Detroit River crossing

    A new open letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Legislature from Michigan and Canadian environmental and transportation activist groups calls for the state to halt all spending on a proposed new Detroit River crossing.

    Citing state budget and environmental concerns, nine organizations — notably Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club Michigan and Ontario chapters, Detroit-based Transportation Riders United and the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers Inc. — jointly sent the letter opposing the controversial project.

    Michigan lawmakers are struggling to craft a balanced budget in the face of a $2.8 billion deficit by the Oct. 1 fiscal year.

    “One project which certainly is not essential for meeting immediate needs and whose need for the future is debatable is the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) highway project proposed in part by the Michigan Department of Transportation,” the letter states.

    The project, which has an estimated $1.8 billion U.S. cost and up to $4 billion overall, is billed by supporters as a needed economic development, trade and security alternative to the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

    Opponents say it’s an unneeded waste of taxpayer dollars because declining border traffic doesn’t warrant it, and is unfair government competition for the privately owned Ambassador Bridge.

    In the letter, the groups note that the Blue Water Bridge linking Port Huron and Point Edward is underused and is a viable alternative to another span in Detroit.

    The DRIC bridge would connect Detroit’s industrial Delray neighborhood and Windsor’s Brighton Beach area.

    The letter also notes that half of the forecasted truck traffic for DRIC could be converted to rail traffic, and suggests that the spending should be audited by an outside agency or diverted to road repairs...

    “We’re a little surprised (about the letter),” said MDOT communications director William Shreck. “We think all of (the concerns were) in the final environmental impact state. Most of this stuff has been answered already.”

    MDOT continues to review the letter, which it received Friday, and hasn’t decided how or if it will respond, he said.

    Border traffic statistics have been down sharply since September 2001 and the declines in the auto industry have further fueled a slowdown — enough to draw opposition to DRIC from TRU, said Megan Owens, the transit advocacy organization’s executive director.

    And for TRU, the lack of “no real consideration for transit alternatives, especially freight rail” equally bolster its opposition to DRIC, Owens said in online comments to Crain’s. The organization mainly lobbies for rail transit.

    Owens also said opposition to DRIC is in no way an endorsement of the privately funded $1 billion effort to add a second span to the Ambassador Bridge by its owner, Grosse Pointe trucking magnate Manuel “Matty” Moroun.

    TRU and other groups have similar environmental concerns about that project’s spanning effort, which faces legal and political opposition of its own in Michigan and Canada.

    Also signing the letter were Citizens Environmental Alliance, Ontario Smart Growth Network and the Ontario and Canadian Transport 2000 groups."