|Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Prime Minister Stephen Harper discuss the agreement between Canada and Michigan to build the Detroit River International Crossing in Windsor on June 15, 2012. (JOEL BOYCE/QMI AGENCY)
LONDON, Ont. — Manufacturers are breathing a sigh of relief after an attempt to block a new bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., was shot down by Michigan voters Tuesday.
The voters turned down a proposal to require a referendum on the issue despite an intense media campaign by the billionaire-owner of the Ambassador Bridge.
In an amendment to the Michigan state constitution, Proposition 6 would have required a state-wide vote before a new bridge could be built.
Many auto parts plants and other manufacturers in the London, Ont., area depend on exports to the U.S., most of if passing through the Windsor-Detroit corridor.
Andy Mavrokefalos, chairman of the London Region Manufacturing Council, said a second bridge is essential to keep goods flowing freely from manufacturers on both sides of the border.
“We need that bridge. This will be very positive for both Canada and Michigan,” he said.
A total of 2,091,763 Michigan voters rejected the proposition while 1,339,460 voted in favour, according to unofficial results posted on the Michigan Department of State website Wednesday morning.
The Detroit Free Press called the results “a stinging rebuke” to Manuel Moroun, the 85-year-old businessman fighting the planned New International Trade Crossing bridge.
The Ontario Trucking Association has been one of the most vocal groups lobbying for a new bridge. OTA president David Bradley said Michigan voters “got it right.”
“It looks good on the people of Michigan. There has been so much misinformation bandied about but they weren’t buying it. It restores your faith in democracy.”
Bradley said even if the Ambassador Bridge is not backed up with traffic, the route requires driving through downtown Windsor and Detroit.
“When you drive a truck from Toronto to Miami you go through 16 stoplights, and 15 of them are in Windsor,” said Bradley.
A new freeway approach is already under construction in Windsor to provide a direct connection to the future bridge.
Bradley said he expects Moroun will continue to launch court actions to delay the project.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a deal for the bridge in June under which Canadian taxpayers bear much of the upfront cost of the $3.5-billion project. The cost would be recovered through future toll revenue.
Harper called the new bridge the most important public works project his government will build, and said it’s worth the risk and investment.
“Whatever battles lie ahead, this bridge is going to be done,” Harper predicted.
Moroun reportedly spent $33 million fighting the bridge. Michigan airwaves were saturated with ads claiming the state’s taxpayers would be stuck with paying for the bridge for generations to come.