DRIC bridge ‘isn’t a dream anymore,’ says Michigan’s transportation director

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello

Michigan’s roads boss expects property acquisition and demolition to start this summer in the Detroit industrial community of Delray to make room for the new downriver Canada-U.S. bridge.

“This isn’t a dream anymore — it is going to happen,” Michigan’s transportation director Kirk Steudle told county road officials at their annual convention in Lansing on Wednesday.

In a story that appeared in the Detroit News, Steudle indicated he expects more than $600 million budgeted by the Canadian government for the Detroit River International Crossing project will start flowing next month.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will be assigned to oversee property purchases in southwest Detroit.

“Sometime in April or so, we ought to have money in Transport Canada’s hands that can start with the property acquisition – and I think that’s what you’ll see this summer … demolition and site clearing going on,” Steudle told members of the County Road Association of Michigan, according to the Detroit News.

Transport Canada officials would not comment Wednesday about the flow of funds to MDOT, but spokesman Mark Butler confirmed title searches are underway for properties needed in Delray.

“Canada is now in the process of completing title searches and advancing engineering design work for the properties on the U.S. side needed for the project,” he said. “This will form the budget for land acquisition and utility relocation in Michigan.”

Canada’s federal government has agreed to pay nearly all costs associated with the bridge, plus feeder roads and property purchases in Detroit for the DRIC project – with the exception of the U.S. Customs plaza which is projected to cost $250 million.

Backers of the project were hopeful the Obama administration would include funds for the customs plaza in the proposed U.S. federal budget which was unveiled on Tuesday – but that failed to happen.

Some fear unless Congress approves spending for the customs plaza in Detroit before the end of this year, completion of the DRIC bridge will be delayed beyond its scheduled opening date of 2020.

Steudle described the lack of funding for the customs plaza in Obama’s budget plan as a “little hiccup,” the News reported.

“The U.S. federal government has said ‘build me a Taj Mahal but I don’t want to pay a penny. In fact, I don’t even want to put people in there, you pay for all of that,’” he said. “And we’ve vehemently opposed (that).

“It’s one of about 50 things going on and this will get resolved … and we’ll get through it.”