The Canadian government plans to start buying land in Detroit for the U.S. portion of a new bridge linking the nations, a Canadian official said in a report published Sunday, a move that bypasses opponents of the project and comes as the U.S. government hasn't yet allocated money.
The $2 billion-plus project to add a second span across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., is simply too important to delay, outgoing Canadian Consul General Roy Norton in Detroit told the Detroit Free Press.
Canada is paying most of the project's cost on both sides of the border. It plans to recoup the cost with tolls travelling in both directions. Officials have said they hope to open the New International Trade Crossing in 2020.
"We're about to proceed with land purchases some time in the next few months, and we're going to do that whether there's been an indication from the U.S. government on a commitment to the customs plaza or not," Norton said. "That involves a little bit of risk on our part, obviously, but we're so confident that this ultimately will be built that it's prudent to do that."
Last month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder complained about the Obama administration's failure to commit $250 million for a border inspection plaza.
"The U.S. government has largely taken a position that they don't think they should pay anything for a facility for the United States government," Snyder said. "In the meantime, I wouldn't want to see the rest of the bridge held up over what you might describe as a somewhat difficult-to-understand attitude."
Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has been one of the project's fiercest and most determined opponents, proposing the addition of a span to his own bridge.
If Canada's land purchases begin this year, officials say they hope most of the about 1,000 parcels will be acquired by the end of 2015. Condemnation proceedings on parcels where owners refuse to sell may stretch into 2016, but that wouldn't necessarily delay construction work since Michigan law lets the government take possession and settle on the sale price later in court.
Ultimately, the U.S. government should come across with the money for its side of the plaza, Norton said.
"For people to muse about Canada paying for it really is preposterous," he said. "We're paying for fifteen-sixteenths of this project. It's silly."