Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Traffic Numbers Do NOT Justify DRIC Bridge: MDOT Experts

Of course you did not see that headline. Did you ever think you would?

Get real! Instead the MDOT Press release said
  • "MDOT: Findings of new Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) traffic study reaffirm need for project"

I cannot keep reading this stuff so early in the morning. I laugh so hard that I get pains in my sides and have to take it easy the rest of the day! Can you imagine if I still subscribed to the Star and was reading this story with my hot coffee. I could have scalded myself!

Can you imagine being MDOT Director, "Captain" Kirk Steudle or frontman, Mohammed Alghurabi, the Senior Project Manager. I would not want to be in their shoes trying to justify the unjustifiable to Senator Cropsey and friends. If any of the Legislators bring out my BLOG "December 11, 2009 Place Your Bet In The DRIC Bridge Completion Pool," then they are finished!

In that BLOG, I demonstrated that according to Canada, SEMCOG and MDOT itself, the project is being stalled off slowly but surely and a new bridge may not be needed until almost 2040!

Here is another knee-slapper I picked up when I went to the MDOT Website:

MDOT is so proud.

  • "Average weekday traffic (AWT) projections for 2035 (the horizon year used in the FEIS) contained in the DRIC investment-grade traffic study are less than 10 percent different from the traffic projections in the December 2008 DRIC FEIS.

Come on, you have to laugh. In reality, the Traffic projections are so bad as undertaken by DRIC that in less than 2 years, from 2008 until now, their numbers are off by almost 10%! And we should spend billions based on this! A Danish Professor's MegaProject running amuk.

It will be interesting to read the Report itself once it comes out. But I am sure it will be very well prepared.

Actually, don't bother reading it. It should be completely ignored, tossed out, thrown into the garbage can even though it cost Michigan taxpayers $275,000 as you will see below.

However, something bothers me. Strategically, why would MDOT release the Report months ahead of when it is needed? It has to be provided to the Legislature for the May-June timeframe. Why release it now and allow the Bridge Company all of that time to rip it to shreds as they will. Why not spring it on everyone in the last possible second. That is what I would have advised.

The only answer that I can think of is more confirmation that the Canada/Michigan partnership has collapsed due to the end-run by Canada of Michigan to buy the Ambassador Bridge. Michigan is no longer worth the effort to Canada.

  • "A P3 is a preferred option for Canada,” said spokesman Mark Butler, senior adviser for the Windsor Gateway Project, which is Transport Canada's half of the Detroit International Gateway Project.

    Canada has such laws, but Michigan must as well because the bridge itself would be co-owned by the two governments.

    “You can't build half a bridge,” Butler said.

    Without such a Michigan law, options include Canada building the entire bridge or the U.S. federal government somehow using its public-private partnership law to construct the span and then delegate the project back to Michigan."

  • "There has been some consideration by government officials on this side of the border, plus U.S. federal authorities in Washington, to push forward on DRIC without Michigan's involvement should its state politicians withdraw financial support for the new bridge.

    There has been a push to find private investors to support a public-private partnership for DRIC, plus the other governments involved -- Ontario, Canada and U.S. -- may decide to pitch in extra funds should Michigan drop out, said sources close to the project."

MDOT knows this and is desperate. They have spent all of this money and now they are being pushed out of the partnership and very publicly too. What would the Michigan Legislators say? Who would be fired over the waste of $30M plus if Michigan got nothing out of this deal? Ergo, try and scare Moroun so that he will come calling ASAP.

After all, look at all of the pressure stories in about a week including the traffic report:
1) MDOT's lawsuit to tear down the Duty Free shop and gas pumps
2) Leak by Michigander, ex-Governor Blanchard of Canada's effort to buy the bridge
3) MDOT: Ambassador not interested in ITS border partnership

And the olive branch via the Free Press Editorial: a Michigan/Moroun partnership over the border crossings in Sarnia/Port Huron and Detroit/Windsor

  • "Moroun's legal efforts can stall the planning and building of a second crossing, but ultimately they won't stop it. If the Ambassador wants to continue getting a big piece of the border action, it ought to negotiate an agreement under which it would jointly own and operate the Ambassador, the new downriver crossing and maybe even the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Moroun's company could even share revenue on the new downriver crossing while repairing the Ambassador.

    The bridge company, which has done an excellent job of operating the Ambassador, has the capital and expertise to make such a public-private partnership work. If structured properly, such an agreement could protect the bridge company's economic interests while providing the public oversight and governance that a border crossing should have.”

But I have it. I know the problem. And I have the answer: MDOT senior bureaucrats do not have the Bridge Company phone number and do not know how to find it

  • "Dan Stamper, president of Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co., denies that his boss has ever rejected such a plan [Re ITS].

    "If Mr. Steudle is serious, tell him to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail and we'll sit down and work it out tomorrow," Stamper told the paper."

It is not unique to MDOT either. Senior Canadians do not know it either.

  • "Here's the thing. We have never had what I would call a real conversation with the Canadian government," says [Matt] Moroun.

    "All the talk so far has been at a lower level, and it starts with the Canadians saying, 'No matter what, we're going to build a new bridge and kill you. Now what did you want to talk about?' It's a pretty tough way to start off. It puts us in a position of saying, 'No matter what, we're going to stop you.' "

    The Morouns say it's time to start anew. At the highest level.

    If they can win an invitation to Ottawa, if the doors of the Prime Minister's Office will open, they are ready "to agree to what Canada needs to be able to sleep better at night. We can allay their concerns. We can be Canada's best friends."

Let me help out. My finder's fee is 10% of the value of the savings by NOT building the DRIC bridge. In either US or Canadian dollars, I am not that fussy. Let the senior people from both sides go here:

Guess what they will find: PHONE NUMBERS!

Back to the investment grade traffic study. Seriously, if one was to be done and to be relied upon by the Legislators, why would anyone in their right mind choose Wilbur Smith Associates to do it.

I am sure that they are a wonderful firm, but aren't they conflicted or can there be such a perception...or as the courts would say:

  • "It is of fundamental importance that Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done."

How can anyone take seriously their independence? They prepared the traffic survey for Canada. Are they going to take 2 different positions? Hardly, they have to be consistent or the whole DRIC project goes into the toilet.

Presumably, the results must be good for Canada or else why would they offer to buy the Ambassador Bridge and then twin it (Mind you, Canada would buy the bridge even if cows only crossed over it. They have been trying for 50 years!)

Now I have my suspicions about the results of their work since at least 2 reports were prepared and Transport Canada refused to provide them to me even after I submitted a Federal Freedom of Information application for them. I chose not to appeal their refusal since it would have taken ages to do so.

So Wilbur Smith really had no choice but to agree that the results for MDOT had to be the same. If not, would Canada have come aknocking asking for their fees back?

But here is their real problem. The firm is NOT independent. They are an advocate for the DRIC Bridge! Remember this ad:

Oh look, Jim Blanchard's name is there too. He's a paid consultant for DRIC too isn't he?

Reasonable apprehension of bias! A Report prepared by a Canadian Govenment consultant who also is strongly in favour of building DRIC. That is also the consultant involved in both the Blue Water Bridge and Peace Bridge, sites that compete with the Bridge Company. DUHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

I would have thought that MDOT's good friend Caanda would have taken pity on the State that needs money and would have given them their reports for free so MDOT could use the $275K instead for putting more dirt and equipment on the access road to the bridge. Did MDOT have an inkling if Canada did not provide them that Canada was working behind their back and had Blanchard start nosing around?

Clearly, MDOT has lawyers. They know about the rules of bias or reasonable apprehension of bias. They know the Wilbur Smith report would be tossed out. It is of no value whatsoever.

Yet MDOT spent $275,000. Now we know why. They were afraid to make the phone call. They are praying that Moroun will call.