Canada's offer to pay more than half a billion dollars to cover Michigan's construction costs of a new border crossing is drawing mixed reaction from both Canadians and Americans.
Federal Transport Minister John Baird said yesterday Canada would fund up to $550 million to help get the Detroit River International Crossing project moving.
The proposed bridge spanning the Detroit River between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit has come up against political and legal roadblocks for years.
'This is a bribe — that's what you see here. Our legislators ought to be very careful.' —Dan Stamper, Detroit International Bridge Co.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm acknowledged that without some financial help, the state legislature was having a hard time approving the bridge project.
With Canada's financial backing, Michigan can now approach the U.S. federal government for support, said Granholm.
New bridge welcomed by some
In Windsor, where many have long dreamed of an alternative to the aging Ambassador Bridge, reaction to Canada's financial assistance for the project was varied.
Some call it a win-win situation, while others say Canada has no business paying America's share of the bridge.
"I think it's a great idea as long as the loan is paid back," said Mike Moore. "We need a second bridge. This one is way too busy."
Baird promised the money would be paid back in full through toll collections at the new bridge.
American resident Janet Randolph said the bridge would be good for Michigan's economy too.
"I'm all for it, and I think Michigan and our government should take up the offer and get moving on it right away," said Randolph.
Ambassador Bridge company calls offer 'offensive'
The bridge, known locally as DRIC, would be downriver from the current Ambassador Bridge, owned by Michigan billionaire Matty Moroun and his Detroit International Bridge Co.
The company's president, Dan Stamper, called the Canadian offer "offensive."
"This is a bribe — that's what you see here," Stamper told the Detroit News.
"Our legislators ought to be very careful."
The Michigan legislature has to vote by June 1 on whether it wants to proceed with the DRIC project.
Moroun has long objected to the DRIC crossing, which he says would draw traffic away from his own proposed second bridge, which would twin the 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge.
"Here you have a gentleman who owns a bridge and is doing just fine and there are all kinds of obstacles being put in his way now so that the government can control the border crossing," said Canadian Alex Stevanov.
American resident Rick Wonoski said he'd prefer to see a publicly owned bridge.
"They're trying to push Matty Moroun out of the bridge business. I think he's made enough money over his lifetime," said Wonoski.