(Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted and abridged from the text of a speech delivered by Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center, to various groups around the state about the ballot proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot.)
The last ballot measure statewide voters must consider this year is Proposal 6, the Michigan International Bridge Initiative. This would require voter approval of any new bridge or tunnel between Michigan and Canada. It’s backed by the owner of one of the two existing Detroit River crossings (the other is a tunnel jointly owned by Windsor and Detroit), and is intended to halt a proposed third crossing supported by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Canadian government.
The initiative’s supporters contend that another Detroit crossing is not needed, given that truck traffic on the current bridge has actually fallen by some 40 percent since 1999.
Opponents of this measure — the backers of a new bridge promoted by previous Gov. Jennifer Granholm and current Gov. Rick Snyder — concede the traffic decline but argue it is likely to grow in the future. One trade group claims that that truck traffic between Canada and Michigan will increase 128 percent over the next 30 years.
The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have countered that they are willing to build a new span right next to their existing bridge to address this concern, and also because the current bridge is ageing.
Opponents of Proposal 6 also argue that the current bridge (and a potential second one on the same site) isn’t located in the right place, because of traffic flows on the surface streets of Windsor. The Canadian government claims that a person driving from Texas to northern Canada will only encounter 17 stoplights, all of which are located on the Windsor side of the Ambassador Bridge.
Construction of another span raises other key questions.
- Will promises that the bridge preferred by Gov. Snyder and Canada be self-supporting through toll revenue hold true?
- To what degree will government’s use of eminent domain on the U.S. side of the border be used or abused?
- Was Gov. Snyder’s use of an “inter-local agreement” to advance a new bridge span proper after the Michigan Legislature refused to authorize a new span?
The last point deserves more attention. The state and local governments here have created almost 1,000 of these so-called “inter-local agreements,” mostly dealing with routine and uncontroversial issues, but in some cases use of the device has been abusive.
The process itself is inherently undemocratic and lacking in both government transparency and accountability. Perhaps the most egregious abuse was the Granholm administration using the devise to create a dummy employer for home health care workers who were then “stealth-unionized.” This is the back-story to Proposal 4, which would cement the scheme into the state constitution. There are also government transparency issues associated with Proposal 2.
A “yes” vote on Proposal 6 would allow the people of this state to participate in any future decision to build a new bridge or tunnel between Michigan and Canada. A “no” vote on the measure means that the governor may continue working toward construction of a new span, potentially without legislative approval.