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Is there a future for the New International Trade Crossing?

The Ambassador Bridge spans the Detroit River and connects Michigan to Canada.
Norris Wong
The Ambassador Bridge spans the Detroit River and connects Michigan to Canada.

One legal expert says only Congress—not the state—can authorize a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.

Constitutional law professor Robert Sedler was one speaker at a Wayne State University law school panel discussion about the bridge’s future Tuesday.

Sedler says Congress, exercising its authority over international commerce, granted the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge a franchise—and would have to do so again in the case of a new crossing.

“The basic point is, you have to go back to Congress if you want a new bridge,” says Sedler, who consults on behalf of the Detroit International Bridge Company.

Citing a 1972 law, Michigan has been negotiating directly with the Canadian government to build a new crossing.

Republicans in the state legislature blocked a bill authorizing the proposed New International Trade Crossing earlier this year—despite strong support from Governor Snyder and the state’s business community. It’s unclear when or whether that project will go forward.

One person who hopes it will is Brad Williams, a Vice President with the Detroit Regional Chamber. The Chamber has pushed strongly for a new crossing, arguing it’s vital for Michigan business.

“Obviously, we hit a pretty major roadblock in the legislature earlier this year,” Williams says. “The legislature doesn’t seem to have the appetite to want to tackle this difficult issue.”

Williams adds, “I think that there are opportunities out there that the Governor can undertake this project without legislative approval.”

Williams says some legal experts have told him that’s an option. But Sedler calls the idea of the Governor going around the legislature “ridiculous.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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