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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Matty's angst: DRIC bridge gets House approval

Posted on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 3:42 PM

That thunderous, angst-filled groan you might have heard yesterday was coming from Grosse Pointe billionaire and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who saw likely competition from a new, publicly owned span take a big step closer to reality when the Michigan House voted to move forward with what’s known as the Detroit River International Crossing. And that loud clanging that filled the air? That would have been the Moroun machine moving into high gear in preparation for what will certainly be an all-out effort to get the DRIC — a cooperative effort between Michigan, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation — killed in the Michigan Senate. If the House vote is any indication, approval of the DRIC by the GOP-controlled Senate is anything but certain. House approval came on a narrow 56-51 vote, without a single Republican voting in favor of a plan that supporters say will create about 10,000 construction jobs. Even Canada’s offer of a $550 million loan to help cash-strapped Michigan cover its costs wasn’t enough to convince the House’s GOP members that the project is worthwhile. What supporters have working in their favor is this: Along with labor unions, the DRIC bridge planned for the Delray area also has the backing of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, automakers and high-powered Republicans like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and former Gov. John Engler. So, the prospect of jobs and widespread support vs. the deep-pocketed lobbying of Matty the mogul. The stage is set for an intense battle. One leader in that fight, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, has been a persistent thorn in Moroun’s side. So much that he’s widely believed to be the one behind a failed attempt last year to launch a recall of Tlaib. Along with being a force in helping to get the DRIC measure passed by the House, the Democrat from southwest Detroit also led the way in getting a companion bill passed yesterday that requires the Michigan Department of Transportation to assist “host communities” in obtaining a community benefits agreement with state or private entities involved in construction of an international border crossing. In other words, along with the traffic, Tlaib is working to make sure that Delary will reap some direct good if the DRIC is built. — Curt Guyette

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