U.S. Rep. Gary PETERS (D-Bloomfield Twp.) introduced legislation today that clears the way for construction of the U.S. Customs Plaza needed to get the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project off the ground.
The Peters bill is designed to spur construction of a second span over the Detroit River, which is stalling in Washington D.C. due to inaction on the federal government's checkpoint into the United States (See "Feds' Delayed Funding For Customs Plaza Worries Snyder, MDOT," 1/21/14).
The Canadian government is willing to fork over the estimated $2.1 billion needed to build the new bridge, but they are drawing the line on taking care of the building designed to serve a U.S. government function.
"The Detroit-Windsor border is one of the busiest and most important trade crossings in North America, and a new bridge here will create thousands of jobs in Southeast Michigan," Peters said. "The project will make it easier for Michiganders and businesses in the region to trade with one of our most important trading partners in Canada. The new customs plaza is the critical next step for Michigan and our economy."
The proposed NITC calls for a six-lane bridge connecting Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Detroit with Highway 401 in Ontario and has the support of Gov. Rick SNYDER, Detroit Mayor Mike DUGGAN and the Detroit Regional Chamber, among several other groups.
Historically, such a project would be stuck in an appropriations bill as an earmark, but since the Republican-led U.S. House has eliminated earmarks, a separate bill is seen as a way to get the ball rolling on the plaza unless the project is baked into the President's budget proposal, which it wasn't.
Snyder is quoted in the Peters' press release applauding the Congressman for introducing legislation for a project that will "yield an incredible return through increased economic activity."
In talking to reporters today, Snyder said he understands the federal government is going through its own round of "challenged budgets."
"The U.S. government uses this to protect the U.S. and they don't want to pay for it or rent it?" Snyder asked. "There has to be a better answer than that."
Asked if he felt Matty MOROUN, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, was gumming up the works through increased lobbying efforts at the federal level, Snyder answered simply, "Washington is a mess in its own right."
Another complexity is the coordination among the various units of government to make this NITC project work. A project of his magnitude just takes time, officials say.
"The customs plaza requires cooperation between international trading partners and among all levels of government," Peters said. "This bill is a positive step in the right direction, and I look forward to working with Governor Snyder, the Michigan delegation, and our partners in Canada to make this a reality.”
While Snyder expressed optimism in working with the state's congressional delegation on the project, some members haven't been historically supportive.
Both U.S. Rep. Tim WALBERG (R-Tipton) and U.S. Rep. Candice MILLER (R-Harrison Twp.) have signed letters for indefinite suspensions of studies for a second bridge (See "Gov Trying To Get Good Vibes From Congress On Bridge," 1/27/14).
Asked about the NITC customs plaza project, Miller Chief of Staff Jamie ROE said the Congresswoman's focus is on the need to reconstruct the Blue Water Bridge plaza, "which is ready to go today and only needs funding from the Department of Homeland Security."
A message to Walberg's press office was left unreturned.