Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

New Border Stories

Here are some stories that you may have missed


I guess MDOT would prefer to lose money and not complete projects rather than have the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project bridge built. It's much more fun to throw tons of dirt on their access road to inconvenience the public!

$2B in federal matching grants are available. Oh well, I guess the State does not need the money nor the contractors need the work or the people need the jobs:
  • "Hundreds of Mich. road projects slashed

    Work to fall 60% in five-year plan; bridge jobs set to drop 65%

    Lansing -- Construction projects on Interstates 96, 94, 75 and other Metro Detroit commuter routes are among hundreds to be cut or delayed by the state as the sour economy empties the fund for repairs.

    A five-year road and bridge program announced by the Michigan Department of Transportation last week would delay more than 100 road projects and 575 bridge projects statewide. That translates into a 60 percent decrease in road work and more than a 65 percent decrease in bridge projects. Also, more than 375 miles of road improvements would be postponed.

    In response, the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association will launch today a statewide push to call the public's attention to the cuts and push for increased investment...

    With the loss of stimulus cash, the total will drop to about $1.14 billion in 2011. It's anticipated the state will be $84 million short in matching money, which may lead to a loss of $475 million in federal funds."

Hey Governor, are you listening yet? Oh yes Guv, how are you going to pay for the DRIC project too? Perhaps you ought to phone Matty and President Obama to talk about your #1 priority project but for Canada.


Ontario Trucking Association president David Bradley is nothing more than a whiny baby:

  • "OTA challenges planned toll increase at public hearing

    LANSING, Mich. -- The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) was at a public hearing this week to voice its condemnation of a proposed toll increase for the Blue Water Bridge. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is threatening to increase tolls for northbound commercial vehicles crossing the bridge from US$1.75 per axle to US$3.25/axle

    The planned increase would come into effect Jan. 5. The OTA estimates the toll hikes would add about $8 million in additional costs for trucks crossing into Canada using the bridge.

    “Timing and approach are all wrong,” said OTA president David Bradley in the weeks leading to the public hearing. “OTA considers it entirely unreasonable and inappropriate that an 85% price hike would be imposed in one fell swoop, with such short notice. Given the current economic times, and the stress that has already been imposed on Michigan-Ontario trade increases of this magnitude are untimely to say the least.”

All these years truckers have been in effect subsidized by MDOT who failed spectacularly to take away traffic from the Ambassador Bridge and he wants it to continue.

MDOT claims

  • "MDOT is defending the increase on the basis that it has the lowest tolls of any of the major bridges, has not increased its tolls for 13 years and wants to bring the tolls in line with those charged on the Canadian side of the bridge, which has higher tolls to begin with. MDOT also needs to pay for improvements to the US plaza and a future re-decking."

Perhaps that might explain to Brian Masse, and to Mr. Bradley, why Ambassador Bridge tolls are higher. They don't have the Government to subsidize them or to pay for improvements!

Moreover, since Canada has the Blue Water Bridge on its list of possible items to dispose of, and probably Michigan too, they need to raise tolls if they want to get a good price for it.

Isn't Bradley the guy who wants DRIC built too. No subsidization there I will bet after Sarnia. Can you imagine his whiny screaming when that public bridge is built at a cost of billions and then is P3ed to a private operator for 99 years. What are the tolls going to be? About three to four times higher than today was one guestimate?

I think David better go and visit the Bridge Co. He may want to reconsider OTA's position!


Interesting article from the Journal of Commerce that is even more pessimistic about when the DRIC bridge will be completed:

  • "Four-Year Delay Seen for New Detroit Bridge

    Canada last week achieved a critical milestone toward building the $3 billion Detroit River International Crossing. But the final opening still faces at least four years of delay by the most hopeful calculation from 2013 to 2017...

    Even four extra years can become more if there are further delays from a huge tangle of lawsuits in U.S. courts or from renewed opposition in the Michigan legislature, where the private owner of the venerable Ambassador Bridge, Manual Moroun, has several supporters. Moroun wants to build his own new span and stop the public DRIC.

    “I would anticipate that the bridge would be in service within seven years,” taking that to about 2017, said Mark Butler, spokesman in Windsor for the federal department Transport Canada, on Friday. He estimated four and a half to five years for construction of the bridge, customs plazas, access roads and other details, and a couple of years or more to arrange the financing and select a “concessionaire” who would build and operate the bridge under ownership by the governments of Canada and Michigan.

    Butler’s four-year delay from original planning may be too optimistic. There are seven (and counting) lawsuits filed involving Grosse Point billionaire Moroun and his company the Detroit International Bridge Co. Aside from the court battles, final approval of the project by the Michigan legislature faces opponents of the DRIC and supporters of Moroun and the DIBC.

    Republican State Senator Alan Cropsey and his majority leader, Michael Bishop, obtained a provision in the 2008-2009 Transportation budget requiring by next May 1 an “investment-grade traffic study” looking ahead 10 years. Michigan’s Transportation Department is to present proposals for private-public building of the project by the same date. The debate may go on for a long time.

    Sen. Cropsey’s chief of staff, John Lazet, told the Journal of Commerce that falling commercial and passenger traffic now and into the future, and Michigan’s current years of economic distress, mean billions should not be poured into an unnecessary publicly-owned bridge when Moroun wants to build a span adjacent to his present bridge. Lazet said a regional transportation authority in southeast Michigan projects DRIC construction could take until 2025 to complete."


Stephen Harper must have dimwits for advisors. Just because he gives speeches outside of Canada does not mean that the Canada Desk in Washington does not read them.

Nothing like the PM trying to take away jobs from workers in American ports when speaking publicly in Korea. The US President will be so pleased:

  • "And let’s not forget Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway ports are closer by days in connecting the main markets of North America and Asia than those further south.

    Ship to Vancouver. Ship to Prince Rupert. Canada is open for business."

As was reported:

  • "Canada must look to the East for economic opportunities because its traditional trading partners, the U.S. and Europe, will be mired in slow growth for some time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday as he wrapped up his visit to South Korea.

    Harper said Asia is becoming the world's economic engine and Canada has the natural resources the region needs to fuel its economies.

    "We have every reason to believe that the markets in the United States and Europe ... will probably experience continued slower growth for some time to come," Harper said.

    "So the great opportunity is obviously in the Asia-Pacific region."

More reduced traffic across the border. Thanks Stephen!


I hear the launch of Spike Bell's new 216 page pictoral book, "Memoirs of a Border City," at the St Clair Centre for the Arts was a huge success. Lots of big-name and well-known people in attendance--nearly 250 people showed up

Except 11 people did not come. I was told all the City Councillors plus Edgar never showed up. I don't remember reading about it in the Star either.

Whom did Spike offend?


I saw this story in Tollroad news:

  • "Penn Pike knew they needed solid reputable consulting studies, they ignored us" - FHWA chief counsel 2008

    Marcus J Lemon chief counsel at FHWA through 2008 says he and other federal officials repeatedly told their counterparts at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission they needed more substantial and impartial consulting studies to justify a federal permit to toll I-80. He tells TOLLROADSnews that at a meeting in July 2008 in the Harrisburg offices of the Turnpike where he represented federal highway administrator James Ray and in other conversations he stressed the importance for meeting the terms of the federal law of the Turnpike coming up with:

    - a detailed analysis of the deficiencies of I-80 and a plan to improve it

    - a solid traffic and revenue study to show the basis for revenue projections

    - a fair market valuation produced by a solid reputable firm

    Lemon tells us he "even gave them examples of reputable firms, such as Citi and others, whom they should look to for that service," adding: "They knew straight from the horse's mouth what they needed to do..."

    But Lemon is adamant that the Turnpike's third application should be rejected. The Turnpike Commission has still not responded to requests for a proposal that is soundly supported and clearly comports with federal law, on Lemon's reading.

    He suspects the Turnpike Commission avoided reputable traffic and revenue consultants and valuers precisely because they knew they would not get the answers they wanted on tolling I-80.

    "FHWA will create a horrible precedent if they accept this application based on such a flimsy analysis. It will open the door to other pathetically supported applications that will lead to failed tolling projects and will hurt the advance of tolling and congestion relief in general."

    Lemon says that in the current economic environment with freight volumes and other traffic depressed tolling projects must be especially well thought out and well supported.

    There's a danger he says that tolling I-80 will be what he calls "Pocahontas Part II."

    That's a reference to a not-for-profit toll concession in Richmond Virginia that turned out to be heavily over-borrowed and had traffic and revenues than ran half of projections. It still struggles although bailed out by Transurban a private concessionaire."

Someone needs to explain to me how Wilbur Smith can do an unbiased study for the State legislature on DRIC when they have already undertaken at least 2 traffic surveys for Canada, none of which have been released for obvious reasons.

Moreover they signed an advocacy ad supporting DRIC. How can they now NOT support it!

It is just too laughable the extent that MDOT will go to try to beat the Bridge Company.


  • "1) Close to 20 Ward 2 residents are expected to speak out about the derelict homes in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge. Homes owned by the Ambassador Bridge on Indian Road, Edison Street and Bloomfield Road are boarded up and the city, wary of the bridge's intentions, has repeatedly denied the company permission to tear them down."