Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will MDOT Lose Fed Money And Even More Border Stories

You will not believe some of the items. The stories just do not stop.

If you don't shake your head in bewilderment by the end of this BLOG, then you are a regular reader and are just as disgusted as I with all of it by now.


Poor, mini-Gord. Someone is trying very hard to destroy the man's credibility. Leave him alone. He is doing that well enough on his own with his corrupt Councillor story, the identity of whom he has steadfastly protected:
  • "Eighty per cent of the U.S. side of the bridge will be paid for by Washington, which has already approved its share of the funding. And it's irrelevant that Michigan is broke. Canadian federal officials expect the U.S. federal government will cover the state's 20 per cent, too, if necessary.

    Whether it's loans or bonds or Katrina-style emergency funding to help out a state devastated by economic disaster, "the money's going to be there," I'm told."

What if the Feds cut off MDOT from federal funding. No DRIC Bridge then.

Think it cannot happen. Read this from the Michigan Auditor general on MDOT's failure to comply with federal rules on bridge inspections. It sounds like Michigan was already threatened with a cut-off:


Here was the predicted US DRIC costs even though they were not based on actual bidder prices. I wonder if they were as phony as what we now know the DRIC Road $1.6B costs were.

Even if they were somewhat realistic, with a possible completion date as far in the future as 2040 if MDOT is correct, we can toss these figures into the garbage now. Even with a date of 2017, the costs would rise by hundreds of millions of dollars.

When will this insanity stop?


Oh my gosh, I am so worried about Tunnel users especially now when Windsor put the Tunnel into a separate company in order to limit its liability in case of a problem

Is Windsor concerned about something perhaps that we do not know about? I am very suspicious as you will see.

The Congressman does not want to be branded as a hypocrite does he? After all, he said:

  • "The public has the right to know the condition of the bridge," said Dingell"

  • "The safety of the driving public should be the top priority for the Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Depart of Transportation, regardless of whether or not a bridge or its bridge operators are public or private. Thousands of individuals and truckers use the Ambassador Bridge every day and I believe they are entitled to know the state of Ambassador Bridge before doing so"

  • “I urge the Detroit International Bridge Co. to disclose (all their) inspection reports to the people. This is a matter of public safety, pure and simple.”

I wrote to the City of Windsor who owns half the Tunnel (directly or through its subsidiary) and Transport Canada asking for a copy of the inspection reports so I could feel secure if I ever used the Tunnel. I am secure about the Bridge since I have seen the reports about it thanks to the Congressman but I do not recall ever reading a report about the Tunnel. And it is quite old too, around the age of the Congressman I believe.

From Transport Canada

  • "Under the International Bridges and Tunnels Act Regulations, which came into force on February 18th, 2009, the owner of an international tunnel must perform a detailed visual inspection once every year. Upon completion of this inspection, the owner must provide the Minister of Transport with a report highlighting the conclusions of the inspection.

    At this time, the Department has not received such a report from the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. A first report is not required until later in February 2010."

From the City of Windsor

  • "Your message (To Galvin)

    To: Galvin, Mark
    Cc: mayoro
    Subject: Detroit/Windsor Tunnel safety report
    Sent: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 09:52:40 -0500

    was read on Wed, 4 Nov 2009 09:53:11 -0500"

  • "Your message (To the Mayor/Head of the Tunnel Commission)

    To: Galvin, Mark
    Cc: mayoro
    Subject: Detroit/Windsor Tunnel safety report
    Sent: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 09:52:40 -0500

    was read on Wed, 4 Nov 2009 11:06:30 -0500"

Nothing supplied yet!

Well Congressman, what are you going to do about this since the Tunnel is half owned by the City of Detroit. I am waiting to hear you say:

  • "The public has the right to know the condition of the Tunnel," said Dingell"

  • "The safety of the driving public should be the top priority for the Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Depart of Transportation, regardless of whether or not a Tunnel or its Tunnel operators are public or private. Thousands of individuals and truckers use the Tunnel every day and I believe they are entitled to know the state of Tunnel before doing so"

  • “I urge Detroit and Windsor to disclose (all their) inspection reports to the people. This is a matter of public safety, pure and simple.”

There is no double standard here is there Congressman considering that the Tunnel has been described as a unique security risk.


I wonder how Sean O'Dell. Executive Director, Windsor Gateway Project, can explain away the horrific traffic numbers month after month after month after month...

Or to put it another way, how can he justify building a DRIC Bridge

From Toll Road news:

  • "Public Border Operators Association (PBOA) has just released data for November 2009 at their eleven toll crossings (10 toll bridges and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel) at the US-Canadian border (Michigan, New York to Ontario).

    Traffic at 2.72m was down about 2% as compared to 2.77m Nov 2008. But these numbers are still way down (c17%) on Nov 2006 3.26m and Nov 2007 3.28m. A goodly chunk of this decline represents the collapses at GM and Chrysler and the associated auto parts trading Michigan-Ontario, but the eastern crossings New York-Ontario that are more diversified also are down very substantially on the 2006, 2007 baseline.

    Year-to-date numbers for the first eleven months of 2009 were 30.41m v 35.05m Jan-Nov 2008, a drop of 13.2%."


How will Wilbur Smith in all honesty be able to say in a report to the Michigan legislature that traffic will recover over the next decade to justify the DRIC Bridge with numbers like this in the leading border crossing user, the automobile industry:

  • "Two stunning reports about the state of Canada's automotive industry came out this week. Together they describe the cause and effect of the tragedy that has befallen what was once the gem of Ontario's economy.

    First, the job losses. The auto industry as a whole has lost more than 74,000 jobs since 2000, most of them in the last 18 months, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Inc.

    To put the number of job losses in perspective, the entire Windsor census area had 59,230 family households in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. Imagine every household in the region losing a good job -- plus 15,000 more gone elsewhere...

    Assembly jobs -- nearly all of them at Chrysler, General Motors, Ford and their partners -- are down by more than 20,000, a third of those jobs disappearing in 2009. The plunge in that category hasn't even finished yet, since GM's Windsor Transmission and some Windsor Ford facilities have yet to close...

    Only one in five passenger cars sold in Canada now comes from Detroit.

    Some might question what is to be gained by picking at these scabs. But you can't plot your future unless you understand your past."


SEMCOG just issued a report "Economic Impact of the Border."

It is disappointment that that they do continue to use discredited DRIC numbers for the traffic volumes.

Here is an interesting comment though

  • "Based on conservative growth scenario estimates, it is anticipated that cross-border
    infrastructure will surpass capacity by 2033."

That is a huge change from the DRIC scare tactics with their unreal projections:

  • "Traffic demand could exceed the cross-border roadway capacity as early as 2015 if high growth occurs. Even under “low” projections of cross-border traffic, the border-crossing capacity (bridge and tunnel, combined)will be reached between 2030 and 2035."

Too bad that no one considered falling traffic numbers.

Now read this and tell me what you would expect the answer to be:

  • "In the last 30 years, additions to the physical border crossing infrastructure have not kept pace with the growing level of trade traffic. The most recent forecast indicates 20% to 30% growth over the next 15 years.

    • Congestion and delays at border crossings have been an issue for several years and, if not addressed, can impact individual businesses and, ultimately, the overall economy. By 2030, if we do not address congestion problems, the Michigan-Ontario border would cost the economies of Michigan and Ontario a total of $6.3 billion U.S. in production, annually.

    Physical Condition of Infrastructure

    Like any aging system, some border-crossing facilities are in good condition, while others are in need of short-term repair or long-term replacement. Work at the 71-year-old Blue Water Bridge and the new span (12 years old) focuses on providing additional capacity for its plaza. Many of the bridges and tunnels which make up Michigan’s international border crossing system, including the Ambassador Bridge, were constructed more than 75 years ago and are now in need of significant longterm repair, reconstruction, or modernization."

Yes, support for building the DRIC bridge would have been expected. But oh my gosh, it was not even mentioned. Instead we got this double-talk:

  • "Maintaining and managing Michigan’s international border crossings involves dealing with a number of diverse and complex issues. Capacity, congestion, delays, the growth in international trade, homeland security, and the deteriorating physical conditions of aging infrastructure are but a few."

Building the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement project, while not mentioned either, is a more realistic solution and can happen more quickly since the Bridge Co. is willing to risk its money now.

Are the Governments starting finally to give up and to understand that "oversight" does not mean "ownership" any longer?

Here is the shocker though about the omission of DRIC as the solution

  • "This report was developed by SEMCOG in partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Department of Transportation."

The Chamber and MDOT are big US backers of DRIC!


As an NDPer, I guess he did not understand why a private bridge's tolls would be higher than those of a public bridge. It is all games playing by the public side.

The Ambassador Bridge needs to charge its users for improvements. Public bridges can charge lower tolls and then just have to beg from the Government. Here is an example from the Q&As used by MDOT to justify the almost doubling of tolls at the Blue Water Bridge.

  • "15. What other funding sources are being used to fund the bridge plaza expansion project?

    A. MDOT will use a variety of funding sources to fund the BWB plaza expansion project. Congressional earmarks contained within the last transportation reauthorization bill (SAFETEA LU) are being used to fund the design phase and partially fund right-of-way acquisition activities.

    MDOT is currently pursuing other new federal aid that could be applied to the project such as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) TIGER grants, and ARRA funding from the General Services Administration. The remaining project funds will be paid for by the sale of bonds. MDOT will repay the bonds with both toll revenue and lease revenue from the federal agencies who will operate on the plaza, and the Duty Free Store."

Oh by the way, keeping tolls artificially low there did NOT take a lot of traffic away from the Ambassador Bridge, its main competitor. The Bridge Co. knows how to move trucks through quicker it seems:

  • "He said even with the increases the rates will remain "significantly lower" than the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel in Detroit. Szuch said the Blue Water Bridge hasn't increased toll rates since 1997, even as the Canadians have increased rates in that time. The rates would match what Canadians charge.

    Szuch said by not increasing fees since 1999 -- when Canadians first increased tolls from $1.50 -- the Blue Water Bridge has forgone $16.5 million in revenue."

In other words, MDOT was subsidizing competition against the Ambassador Bridge by charging taxpayers not users. Is this preedatory pricing ie "the practice of selling a product or service at a very low price, intending to drive competitors out of the market?" Were the tolls set at a rate below cost? Is that really why tolls doubled ie the Michigan economy is so bad that MDOT cannot afford to subsidize any longer? Are there rules about that in the US?

  • "1. When was the last toll increase?

    A: 1997 was the last time the tolls were increased. They were raised from $1.25 (passenger), $1.50(commercial) to the current $1.50 (passenger), $1.75 per axle (commercial).

    4. Will there be other toll increases in the future?

    A. This toll increase is a necessary step to ensure there is enough funding to:
    • maintain the daily operations of bridge (i.e., toll collections, traffic management, snow removal),
    • conduct necessary major bridge maintenance projects (i.e., painting and redecking), and
    • implement the plaza expansion project.

    The need for future toll increases will be evaluated based on a number of factors including; the recovery of our state and national economies, future traffic volumes, and how much additional funding can be garnered for the plaza expansion project from MDOT’s partners in Washington D.C. (i.e., General Services Administration funds, new federal money which may come to Michigan in form of ARRA, TIGER Grants, or Congressional earmarks)."