DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – State lawmakers toured Windsor and southwest Detroit, Monday, at the proposed sites of a new bridge across the river between the U.S. and Canada.
The tour was organized by Republican Sen. Mike Kowall, chairman of the state Senate’s Economic Development Committee.
Kowall, of White Lake, said he hoped the tour would give committee members the lay of the land.
“Until you get down here and get your hands on it, see it, feel it, touch it, you know, you don’t really know,” said Kowall. “By getting our legislative people down there they get a better feel of what it is we need to do moving forward.”
Kowall expects what he calls an “interesting” debate this fall on either a publicly funded bridge at Zug Island, or a privately built span next to the Ambassador Bridge.
“I don’t think there’s a real big debate as to, ultimately, do we need a new span. I think the debate’s going to get down to who’s going to build it,” Kowall said.
The committee is considering legislation that could allow Michigan to become involved in a project to build what’s being called the New International Trade Crossing.
Gov. Rick Snyder and many businesses support building a new Detroit-Windsor bridge to aid passenger and commercial traffic. It would be backed by private investors, and Michigan would rely on $550 million from Canada for related improvements.
Kowall told WWJ Newsradio 950′s Ron Dewey that, as of right now, he really can’t tell which way the wind is blowing in Lansing, which is part of the reason for the tour.
While lawmakers discussed the project, members of the New Marcus Garvey Group staged a protest, saying those who claim the bridge won’t cost taxpayers are money are lying.
“When the governor says this isn’t gonna cost the tax payers a thing, but we hear that the federal government of the United States is going to provide some funds, that’s our money,” group spokesman Malik Shabazz told WWJ’s Pat Sweeting.
“Uncle Sam has no money. That’s our money. Right off the bat, that’s a lot,” he said.
But one one resident of of the Del Ray neighborhood, where the bridge would be built, said he welcomes the project.
“We don’t have anything in the state of Michigan that has growth, that can sustain growth, that can turn a community that’s been left behind for so many years into something positive,” said the man, who did not want to give his name.
Officials of the privately owned Ambassador Bridge also oppose the new bridge.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.