Truth Squad calls foul on campaign doc opposing Snyder-backed bridge

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: People Should Decide mailer

Who: The People Should Decide

What: Mailer

Truth Squad Call: Foul

Questionable statement: "Snyder's bridge. Not free. Not even close."

The flier is the latest salvo in a fierce political fight over a proposal to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The campaign document is paid for by The People Should Decide, a group funded primarily by interests tied to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun. Moroun wants to build his own second span connecting Detroit and Windsor. The People Should Decide has spent $4.6 million opposing the bridge, which would be publicly funded, but privately operated. PSD is backing a November ballot proposal that would require popular approval for the state to construct or finance an international bridge or tunnel.

Gov. Rick Snyder has championed the crossing as a boon to trade and job creation since taking office. In June, U.S. and Canadian officials announced an agreement to build the bridge with guarantees from Canada to pay Michigan's $550 million share of the project. The sum is to be paid back by tolls collected on the Canadian side of the crossing.

Questionable statement: "Who will pay for lost property taxes from condemned homes to build a new government bridge?"

Canada has agreed to pay for land needed for the bridge on both sides of the bridge. Construction on the Michigan side would force demolition of an estimated 250 homes, dozens of businesses and up to five churches. Under eminent domain law that governs such projects, property owners are compensated at fair market value for property loss. The agreement with Canada stipulates that the request for proposals to build the bridge must include a community benefits plan and involvement of affected communities.

Questionable statement: " ... a new interchange for I-75 to connect the new bridge to existing highways?"

The I-75 highway interchange is predicted to cost $385.9 million (covered by Canada) and the U.S. Inspections plaza $413.6 million, with cost of the plaza to be paid by the U.S. General Services Administration. The bridge itself is projected to cost nearly $1 billion and is to be financed by investors under a concession agreement. Canada is agreeing to pick up the remainder of the project's cost.

Questionable statement "... lost toll revenues and lost jobs from the existing bridges and tunnel that already connect Canada and Michigan?"

As owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Moroun’s profits would presumably be affected by another crossing he does not own. A 2011 report by the Anderson Economic Group noted a potential revenue drop to the Ambassador Bridge of nearly $70 million by 2030 if the new span is built.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is owned by the cities of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  Tunnel traffic and revenues have been trending up in 2012.

Questionable statement: "If the new government bridge for Canada is such a great economic boon for Michigan why did the Michigan Legislature, repeatedly, vote against building it?"

Moroun has lobbied hard against the bridge and has managed to convince enough key Republicans to forestall legislative approval. Correction: The House, under Democratic control, approved a bridge-related bill in 2010; it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. It has never come to a vote by full membership of either the state House or state Senate. A state Senate committee in November 2011 decided not to authorize the project by a 3-2 vote

Bridge proponents -- which include the major automakers and numerous businesses -- maintain the price of doing nothing is costly. The congested 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge is the busiest international border trade crossing in North America, with more than 7,000 trucks crossing each day. Almost a quarter of all merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S. uses the bridge. A study by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce found that delays in the Detroit-Windsor corridor could cost  the United States and Canada $17.8 billion by 2030 and 70,000 lost jobs.

Opponents say a public bridge could "lose billions," citing a 2011 study by Conway MacKenzie of Birmingham that the bridge would lose $4.7 billion over 20 years. Conway MacKenzie was hired by Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. to conduct the study. Snyder disputes the analysis.

Questionable statement: "Why does Governor Snyder say the new government bridge for Canada will bring jobs now when their permit request says construction won’t begin for five more years?"

Snyder has long maintained the bridge -- whenever it is built -- will add thousands of jobs and improve trade between the United States and Canada. A study by the Center for Automotive Research estimates that construction will create 6,000 jobs each of the first two years and 5,100 in each of the final two years. Moreover, the $550 million Canada is shouldering as Michigan's share can be used by the state as matching funds to capture $2.2 billion in federal money that can be spent on roadway projects across the state. The Center estimates that will generate an additional 6,600 jobs annually for four years.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says fall of 2013 is the tentative start time for construction.

Overall impression: With this flier, The People Should Decide continues a campaign against the bridge that remains long on assertions, but short on facts. There is considerable evidence the existing single crossing to Windsor is costing business and hampering trade. Opponents have not clearly shown how the project would do substantial harm to Michigan taxpayers.

Foul or no foul: Foul. The flier makes notable claims it does not prove.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Charles Richards
Thu, 08/16/2012 - 3:40pm
I'm sorry, I support construction of the bridge, but I am uncomfortable with this. It is tendentious. There is too much marketing and too little illumination. For instance, the question about who would compensate for the property taxes lost due to the condemnation of houses and businesses was never actually answered. Lester Graham had a much better analysis on Michigan Radio.