Post Number: 854
|Posted on Friday, June 01, 2007 - 4:07 pm: || |
Dave Battagello, Windsor Star
Published: Friday, June 01, 2007
A publicly owned bridge linking the downriver communities of Sandwich and Delray is being supported by two of North America's most powerful vehicle manufacturing groups.
The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, which represents Canada's Big Three automakers, has issued a letter urging the Michigan state government to end its threat to back out of the binational government process to build the crossing.
The letter is also signed by the association's U.S. counterpart, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the Big Three across the border, plus several European and Japanese automakers.
"The automotive industry continues to support the DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing) process to clearly identify the best location and option for a new crossing that will add redundancy and unimpeded access from Michigan's interstates to Ontario's highways," said the associations.
There is no mention in the statement of the Ambassador Bridge's proposed twin span project -- the main competitor in the race to build the next Windsor-Detroit bridge.
The letter is the first statement of support by the auto industry for any crossing proposal.
Auto manufacturers and parts suppliers are the most prominent users of the Windsor-Detroit border -- North America's busiest trade crossing.
The companies send trucks carrying more than $100 million in goods daily across the Ambassador Bridge.
"In light of the importance of efficient and effective infrastructure to the success of the automotive industry, we strongly support the partnership between the governments of Michigan and Ontario as well as Canada and the United States and their work toward securing a new gateway at Detroit/Windsor," the letter said.
Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian association, who signed the letter, did not return messages on Thursday from the Star.
"We are 100 per cent behind this," said Gerry Fedchun, president of the Toronto-based Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association. "We feel exactly the same way."
The parts association attends mutual meetings with the vehicle manufacturers association, at which opinions are regularly exchanged on Windsor's border truck dilemma, Fedchun said.
"The auto people agree we need a new crossing and we need the (DRIC) to do its job," he said.
But Michigan for more than a year has threatened to back out of DRIC as some of the state's political leaders have increasingly been leaning toward the twin span proposal of bridge owner Matty Moroun.
Michigan's government is considering an amendment in the state's budget to withdraw DRIC support.
The auto association letter says: "Given the strategic importance of the Detroit-Windsor link we urge the government of Michigan to reject this amendment and maintain the Detroit/Windsor infrastructure as a top priority."
Added Fedchun on Thursday: "I can't understand why anyone would want to stop the process when we are in the home stretch. After all the work that's been done, the money that's been spent, I have no idea why anyone would do that."
The DRIC team is scheduled to release its recommendations in a few weeks and hopes to have a new crossing between the Sandwich-Delray communities open by 2013.
Bill Shreck, spokesman for both the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Granholm on border crossing issues, did not respond to a message Thursday.
The auto industry does not support Moroun's twin span proposal, Fedchun said.
"It's very simple -- the twin span has a security problem," he said. "It's much easier for one truck to knock out both spans, than another crossing a long ways away."
If there is no new bridge by the 2013 target date, Fedchun said "we are going to be in deep trouble on the Canadian side" because two-thirds of the parts manufactured here are shipped into the U.S. under the just-in-time system.
"Windsor is bearing the brunt of this, he said. "Let's finish the binational study, find out what they say and get the financing after that."
The Ambassador Bridge company will go before Detroit's city council on Monday to seek support for its twin span proposal. The council has expressed concern over the plan and the bridge company's pursuit of US$1 billion in federal government bonds to finance the project.
The bridge's next step in the process is scheduled to unfold Tuesday in Lansing where the Michigan Strategic Fund -- an arms-length group of the Mich-igan Economic Development Corporation will vote on whether to represent the bridge's bond request in Washington. The bridge company needs a public-sector entity to issue the request on its behalf.
© The Windsor Star 2007