TORONTO - Waivers and approvals from American officials for a new international bridge linking Detroit with Windsor, Ontario are on the fast track and should be completed in a few months, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday.
Earlier this month, voters in Michigan rejected an attempt by the owners of the existing Ambassador bridge linking the two cities to derail the project, voting 60-40 per cent to support a new bridge.
Now the project needs a presidential permit, an exemption from the Buy America policy and clearance from the U.S. Coast Guard, Snyder said after discussing the bridge with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in Toronto.
"It's moving along very quickly compared to the traditional time line for president permits, so I would say we’re on a fast track and I hope to get that in the next two or three months," Snyder told reporters. "That would be a huge step."
The waiver from the U.S. Department of Transportation is "also coming along nicely," and the Coast Guard approval should be virtually automatic, said Snyder.
"I don’t view that as a major issue at all since we’re not talking about having the (bridge support) towers in the water _ they’ll actually be on ground _ so the only issue is will it be tall enough so a ship doesn’t run into it, and I think we’re pretty safe there," he said.
"Then the engineering work can really commence in more detail, and then the property acquisition piece on the U.S. side can move forward."
McGuinty said he knew the new bridge had a champion in the Michigan governor's office shortly after Snyder was elected in 2010.
"From my very first conversation with Gov. Snyder, when I raised the issue of the Windsor-Detroit crossing, it was obvious that he was most cognizant of the nature of the political challenge and just how arduous a task it would be to get this thing done," said McGuinty.
"I have been incredibly impressed with his commitment and his courage and his steadfastness when it comes to getting this project moving forward."
Canada has agreed to finance the entire cost of the $1-billion publicly-owned international bridge and will recover Michigan's share through tolls on the American side of the Detroit River, something Snyder said was key to getting the project to move forward in the United States.
"I really want to thank all the citizens of Canada for stepping forward to put forward the resources to make this project happen and be repaid by tolls," said Snyder.
"That’s a true statement of confidence in a project. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without you."
The 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge is the busiest trade link between Canada and the United States, with over 7,000 trucks a day crawling through more than a dozen traffic lights in Windsor to get to the border crossing.
Politicians on both sides of the border say a second bridge, which will have a new access road from Highway 401, will make goods flow much more freely and lead to thousands more jobs.
"It’s about jobs, and we need more and better jobs on both sides of the border," said Snyder.
"So this bridge is a physical manifestation of a long-term relationship we’ve had between the province and the state for a long time."