Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 11, 2009

Place Your Bet In The DRIC Bridge Completion Pool

The Ontario DRIC road to nowhere seems more and more likely.

Look, I try my hardest to keep up. It's not my fault if I cannot do it.

Those DRIC people make my life so difficult. One story for Canada. One story for the US. And then it keeps changing too as they make up stories why previous stories really did not mean what they said.

Take 2013 for instance. How long have we heard that the DRIC bridge was to be finished by that date. On both sides of the border.

Then the big shocker to me was the Eh-Channel story telling us that 2013 really was not the completion date but merely a "target" and that the real completion date was 2015.

Honest, I expected that 2015 was firm. I even read it in the Globe and Mail, in a Jeffrey Simpson column, so it had to be correct
  • "It almost seems too good to be true: a new bridge by 2015. Hold your breath."

Imagine my shock and dismay when Eh-Channel interviewed Transport Canada's Mark Butler the other day and he said that we were now looking at 2016 or perhaps later for completion.

Where is the certainty in this world?

Oh it gets worse. Merely a day or so later Butler is quoted as saying:

  • "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...

    “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...

    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."

My recollection is that the Bridge Co. could have a new bridge up in only 30 months after they get their permits, not 7 years like DRIC if Butler is correct.

2025!!! Where did that come from? We need a new bridge long before then don't we? For traffic flow purposes not capacity, just like the Peace Bridge honcho was saying for his expansion too. If it cannot be the DRIC Bridge, then it has to be the one proposed by the Ambassador Bridge which should be the #1 prioroty yet Canada wants to block it. Just ask the Michigan Governor. She said it, I did not!


In 2007, MDOT said in their Transportation Plan

  • "Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC): MDOT, in cooperation with its Canadian partners, is conducting an Environmental Impact Study for a new international border crossing in the Detroit River area... The study is expected to be complete in 2008 with a new crossing to be in place by 2013."

In June, 2008 in a SEMCOG document, it was said that the Timecode for DRIC was 2011-2015

In October, 2009, SEMCOG was now looking at the 2021-2025 time period for DRIC.

That did trigger a memory:

  • "Stuedle said construction on the bridge needs to begin somewhere between 2015 and 2030 depending on traffic flow."
That meant completion around 2035-2037 now! That seemed more likely since it was consistent with a recent Pew Center on the States report that said:
  • "Michigan's recovery is going to be a long haul," the report says. "Even if the state were to immediately begin growing at the rapid rates of the 1990s, it would be 2025 or 2030 before it replaced all the jobs it lost this decade."
And here was what was said at the Cropsey hearing that fits in as well to a much later start:
  • "Algurabi: We believe we need ten lanes. Now the need for it, it varies. Again it’s based, I’m told its more of an art than it’s a science, at least traffic projection. When you’re looking at that the need could begin as early as 2025, or could be as late as, I believe its 2015 all the way to 2035 that the need will be, will be there and you’ll have to have it. But the time to plan for it and have it in place, you can plan for it, then you gotta plan for it in advance."
Wow, is this ever becoming confusing to me!

Then SEMCOG just came out with a report and said:
  • "Based on conservative growth scenario estimates, it is anticipated that cross-border infrastructure will surpass capacity by 2033."

They just junked any completion date up to 2017 and beyond! It dropped the previous 2013/2015 language completely.

The DRIC bridge is a non-starter. Here is SEMCOG's role

  • "As the Michigan State Single Point of Contact (SPOC), SEMCOG reviews federal grant applications for a variety of local, regional, and state projects in relation to regional plans and policies."

Given their own figures, they can hardly support spending billions on a DRIC project today! Nor can the Detroit Regional Chamber who partnered with SEMCOG and MDOT in the report.

Look, we need to have a contest or a pool with a fee to play and a prize to the one who guesses the actual completion date. We legitimately can now go out as far as say, 2040. And that is outside the DRIC study period so we may need to start all over again and get new dates taking into acount today's economic reality.

There is one big problem with this Pool scheme however...who will hold the funds, will the prize-winner live that long? I am in pretty good health right now but over 30 years from now....well, it is a long time!

PS. Some advice to mini-Gord. Check your sources a bit better. Whoever gave you the info for this column, "DRIC bridge hurdle cleared," well you may want to confirm his stuff first before you use it again to save yourself from embarrassment and ridicule:
  • "Too bad we can't have the construction hiring halls open before the holidays, so some jingle can be put in the pockets of our thousands of unemployed. But that will come too, eventually.

    A groundbreaking for the bridge is still a long way off. Private partners still have to be selected to finance, build and run the bridge. A design has to be agreed on, contracts tendered.

    But approval of the EA was a big hump to get over, so the people who yearn for this vital project should feel great relief.

    The 12,000 person-years of construction work are one large step closer. Ontario's automotive economy is one large step toward seeing a historic barrier to trade eased, and the region is one large step closer to seeing the construction of a landmark that could redefine us to the world."