One of Downriver's obvious advantages is the location of
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the nation's eighth largest airport, in Romulus.
Access to major surface routes such as I-75, I-94 and I-275 have also been a key
factor behind existing economic development in the area.
Access to Detroit Metro,
however, is indirect via freeways from most of Downriver. To reach Metro
Airport, one must travel north on I-75 to the Southfield Freeway, and then east
on I-94 to the facility. This is a rather circuitous route, and the I-75 – I-94
link along the Southfield Freeway is old and narrow.
An east-west surface
route south of Metro Airport would significantly reduce transportation costs for
firms locating in the Downriver area.
Completion of I-275 has allowed firms in Canton Township, Northville, Novi,
Plymouth to be more competitive than industry located Downriver. The expansion
of Metro Airport would provide increased opportunity for Downriver, especially
if a southern route into the airport was developed.
Today, firms in northwestern Wayne and Oakland counties
are closer time-wise to Metro Airport although their distance is greater than
Downriver communities because such a surface route does not exist.
Detroit Metro and surface
routes such as I-94 and I-275 would be more accessible to Downriver if an
east-west freeway was built along either Eureka, Pennsylvania, Sibley or West
roads. In fact, this possibility is already under consideration by the state
Department of Transportation.
While it is possible that the Downriver communities,
perhaps through the DCC, could attempt to engage in the political appropriation
battles necessary to secure federal and state funding for an east-west corridor,
serious consideration should be given to construction of a private highway.
The early history of mass
transit in America is one of successful private transportation firms. But
government treatment of transportation as a regulated monopoly has spelled
disaster for many transportation networks. However, an encouraging recent
development has been the emergence of private toll roads across the U.S. and
elsewhere, including China.
In April 1987, ground was
broken for one of the world's most ambitious private highway projects: a
181-mile toll road linking Hong Kong with Canton and Macao in China. The $1
billion venture is being carried out under the build-operate-transfer (B-O-T)
concept, in which the private sector finances, builds and operates the project
for a specified time period – in this case 30 years – after which time title
reverts to the government. Downriver communities should examine the option of
private east-west corridor.
A bridge to Ontario,
Canada is another important infrastructure improvement that would aid economic
development. The U.S.-Canada Free
Trade Agreement, signed by leaders of the two countries Jan. 2, 1988, will open
up new opportunities for Michigan firms to export to Canada. Some economic
estimates indicate that the increase in bilateral trade will be in the hundreds
of millions, perhaps billions of dollars. Michigan currently accounts for about
one-fifth of total bilateral trade, and it could seize a greater portion of an
Improved access to Canada from Downriver would benefit
existing firms and attract new ones. A bridge would give Downriver firms direct
access to markets in Ontario, Canada's most prosperous province.
The private sector should
be given first consideration for construction of such a bridge. Michigan's
most recent experience with a government-built bridge, the Zilwaukee across I-75
in Saginaw County, illustrates the dangers of public sector involvement:
cost overruns, delays and other problems.
There are no natural
impediments to private bridges. Indeed, the existing Ambassador Bridge
between Detroit and Windsor was built privately and remains a private-owned
firm. A publicly-built bridge from Downriver to Canada would be in a
position to compete unfairly with the Ambassador Bridge because it would be
taxpayer-subsidized. Such a prospect should be avoided.
The first private U.S. toll
bridge in more than 40 years opened for business last year between Fargo, N.D.,
and Moorhead, Minn. Discussed for more than 30 years, the project is a joint
venture of the Fargo-based Bridge Company and New York's Municipal Development
communities should ensure that developers pay the marginal cost of
infrastructure improvements elsewhere. Otherwise, taxpayers will be subsidizing
private individuals or corporations.
One has to be very careful
of some economist's claims to a "multiplier effect" of government spending on
the private sector. Firms subsidizing others face an economic disincentive,
and may relocated from the area over time. Each dollar removed from the
taxpayer and used to invest in a government project is a dollar which otherwise
would have been used by the private sector. In general, private sector
allocation of resources is the most efficient. Local government cannot assume
that the value of its service equals or exceeds the marginal cost of producing