(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - On the day before Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are expected to announce details of a new public bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, a new study by the Center for Automotive Research said the project will create thousands of new jobs and billions in economic benefits.
Figures released during a morning press conference at the Detroit Regional Chamber projected that the new public bridge project would create about 6,000 construction jobs for each of the first two years of construction and 5,100 jobs for each of the final two years of construction.
In addition, jobs from other statewide transportation construction projects enabled by federal matching funds that will come to Michigan because of the bridge project would average about 6,600 created or retained jobs for each of the four years of construction.
Nearly 1,400 permanent jobs would be created from the operation of the new bridge.
And the study by CAR projected that the state's gross domestic product -- the total output of the state's products and services -- would rise by $2.2 billion because of the project.
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce strongly supports construction of the new bridge, noting that one of seven jobs in the region is tied to exports to Canada. Rick Baker, CEO of the Chamber, said: "The CAR study confirms that local companies need the infrastructure to connect them to the marketplace to ensure they can compete."
Construction of the bridge itself will serve as an economic stimulus, providing jobs and state revenues," said Kim Hill, director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies at CAR and the study's lead author.
"Once construction is completed and bridge operations have begun, the region's additional freight shipping capability could attract private-sector investment, augmenting the gross regional product and creating more employment opportunities," he continued.
Total personal income in the state would rise by $4 billion, and state and local tax revenue would increase by $400 million due to the project, the study found.
Business and labor leaders were on hand to voice their support.
"This isn't just about trading with Canada. This is about trading with the entire globe," said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.
CAR study author Hill said the study did not attempt to deal with the question of whether border traffic will increase in years ahead, a key point in contention in the debate over whether the project is needed. But he said, "The bridge will enable future growth."
Bill Storves, manager of the North American supply chain for Ford Motor Co., also spoke at the press conference in favor of the new public bridge. He said the project is needed to ease congestion at the Ambassador Bridge and make sure Ford plants continue to get their parts delivered on time.
Lisa Canada, political and legislative director of International Union of Operating Engineers, said the public bridge project will provide "years of good work and good paying jobs" for construction workers, in addition to making possible long-term economic benefits.
"When you ask businesses who are relocating what they need, infrastructure - solid, safe infrastructure -- is one of the first things on their list," she said.
Asked when she would like to see construction begin on the proposed public bridge, she said, "We'd like it to begin today. We've been working on this for years."
The new public bridge would be built about two miles downstream from the Ambassador Bridge.
The Moroun family that owns the privately held Ambassador Bridge has fought plans for a new public bridge for years. The new public bridge would be expected to draw traffic and toll revenue away from the Ambassador, although Storves said that Ford would expect to use both the Ambassador and a new public bridge in the future for its shipments, which total around 600 truckloads a day across the border.
Detroit Free Press