POLITICS

'High-level meeting' about new bridge held in Windsor

05/10/2012 04:13 EDT | Updated 07/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Transport Minister Denis Lebel and U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson met Thursday in Windsor, Ont., to discuss advancing the new international border crossing to be built between Windsor and Detroit.

Members of the U.S. Department of Transportation from Washington, representatives from the Canadian Consulate and senior officials from Transport Canada were also on hand.

The meeting lasted nearly three hours.

"The senior level of participation at this meeting underscores the importance of the meeting and the project to both countries,” said Mark Butler, a spokesperson for Transport Canada.

It was the first time Minister Lebel and Governor Snyder have met face to face.

The group discussed ways to advance the Detroit River International Crossing project.

Butler refused to characterize the meeting as "secret."

The meeting was scheduled last week.

"They wanted to have a fulsome discussion and not have any distractions at hand," Butler said.

Butler would not detail what was discussed but said it went well.

Snyder's spokesperson Ken Silfven refused to provide the Detroit Free Press details about the meeting, which Silfven said was not on Snyder’s public schedule.

“Our commitment to this vital project is as strong as it’s ever been,” Silfven told the Free Press.

The State of Michigan has yet to approve construction of the proposed $1-billion bridge. Ottawa has offered to pay $550 million of Michigan's share of the crossing.

Construction on the $1.4-billion Windsor-Essex Parkway, which will eventually lead to a new crossing, started earlier this year.

Butler said the Government of Canada is looking to ramp up action on the project and to move it forward as soon as possible.

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse, who is the Canada-U.S. border critic, was not a part of the talks.

He did have reaction to the meeting.

"Any meeting (about the bridge) is a good meeting,” Masse said.

Masse had lunch with Jacobson earlier this week. Masse said the ambassador never mentioned he had a meeting planned in Windsor.

Lebel briefly toured Windsor. The tour did not include the Ambassador Bridge, the DRIC site or the Windsor-Essex Parkway construction site.

Almost $500 million US passes daily along the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, making it the busiest border crossing in North America.