Michigan voters have implicitly given the thumbs-up to a new crossing to Canada, voting down a local billionaire's attempt to ban a proposed new Windsor-Detroit bridge.
Voters turned down Proposal 6, according to a number of projections in local media. The ballot initiative would have amended the state's constitution to make it considerably harder to build the proposed New International Trade Crossing, for which Canada has agreed to foot the entire bill.
The vote marks a defeat for Matty Moroun, the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River between Ontario and Michigan. Moroun collects toll charges from the bridge and owns gas stations near it, and stands to lose millions if a new bridge were built.
Moroun spent $31 million on ads pushing Prop 6, in a campaign some observers argued was deceptive. Some of the ads implied Michigan taxpayers would be stuck with the bill while Canadians would benefit from new jobs.
In fact, Canada agreed to foot the entire $1 billion cost of the new bridge, in an agreement Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last summer. And a study estimated the new bridge would create 8,000 permanent jobs in Michigan.
A new crossing to replace the aging, two-lane Ambassador Bridge has been a priority of Canada's federal government for years. Some 25 per cent of all merchandise trade between the two countries passes over the Ambassador Bridge, worth some $500 million (U.S.) daily.
In an apparent effort to keep Moroun from throwing up further roadblocks to a new bridge, the Harper government added a measure to its most recent omnibus budget bill that would exempt the bridge from a number of environmental protection regulations.
The company through which Moroun owns the bridge criticized the legislation as an "anti-American" law meant to "make the entire project above the law."
Moroun's campaign to halt a new bridge has gotten help from the Koch brothers, the billionaire oil barons behind the conservative lobby group Americans for Prosperity, as well as from Grover Norquist, the godfather of American anti-tax orthodoxy.
Moroun’s reluctance to develop the infrastructure linking Windsor and Detroit came to a head last winter, when a judge jailed the billionaire overnight for failing to complete construction work that would connect the existing Ambassador Bridge with Detroit’s freeway system.
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-- With earlier reporting