M-1 Rail & Gordie Howe Bridge on Reported List of Trump Administration Priorities
“The BDC is encouraged to learn that the new administration may be considering the Gordie Howe International Crossing as a transformational project for the nation. We have recognized the importance of the new bridge and are working to position Monroe County to take advantage of potential new opportunities,” commented Tim Lake.
Reprint from Crain’s Detroit Business
By: Chad Livengood & Bill Shea
President Donald Trump’s internal list of top national infrastructure projects includes the M-1 Rail streetcar line in Detroit, constructing the Gordie Howe International Bridge over the Detroit River and building a new shipping channel at the Soo Locks, according to a published report.
Documents obtained by McClatchy Newspapers published Tuesday show the three Michigan projects among 50 “emergency and national security projects” across the country aimed at repairing the nation’s crumbling bridges, tunnels, highways, airports and dams.
The document said the total national investment would be $137.5 billion. Some of the project costs on the list are already spent or appropriated, so it is unclear how much new federal investment would be involved. Most of the projects on the list are high-profile infrastructure expansions rather than repair projects.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told McClatchy on Wednesday that the infrastructure priorities list is “not an official White House document.”
McClatchy reported that Trump’s transition team provided the document to the National Governors Association.
Hours after McClatchy newspapers reported on the document, a member of the Trump administration’s transition team at the U.S. Department of Transportation told Politico.com that the document did not come from Trump’s team.
“We saw it and confirmed it did not come from the transition team,” Brigham McCown, chairman of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, told Politico.
The new Republican president has expressed an interest in boosting the federal government’s spending on infrastructure to address economic needs and stimulate job creation.
The McClatchy report said the National Governors Association asked governors’ offices last month for input on a preliminary list of infrastructure projects compiled by the Trump team. The Trump administration list closely resembles the list the association submitted, McClatchy reported.
Gov. Rick Snyder and state Transportation Director Kirk Steudle discussed the bridge, M-1 streetcar line and Soo Locks projects with officials in Trump’s transition team before he took office Friday, Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said, “those were the top three projects that we discussed.” on said. Snyder and Steudle did not give Trump’s transition team specific costs of the projects or make any formal funding request in writing, Heaton said.
Some details in the report could raise hopes that funding to extend the mostly completed QLine streetcars farther north could be a possibility.
The document pegs the cost of the M-1 Rail project at $528 million. That’s the same amount Detroit officials estimated in 2008 it would cost to build a eight-mile-long light rail line along Woodward Avenue from the foot of Woodward Avenue to the Ferndale border.
M-1 Rail’s QLine streetcars are scheduled to begin ferrying people between Grand Boulevard in New Center and Larned Street downtown in April. That 6.6-mile loop cost $142 million and has been jointly funded by businesses, philanthropic foundations and local, state and federal taxpayers.
M-1 Rail CEO Matthew Cullen said he was not aware of the project appearing on any list. “I think that if it were extended it would ideally go beyond Eight Mile,” he said. “If that happened, I believe it would be incredibly impactful from a transit and economic development standpoint.”
The Trump administration document calls the M-1 Rail project “an unprecedented public-private partnership and model for regional collaboration.” This exactly mirrors language that M-1 Rail uses to describe itself.
The Trump team’s infrastructure plan also includes the $4.5 billion Gordie Howe International Bridge, a long-debated new span over the Detroit River.
The Canadian government has pledged to fully back the cost of the project through a public-private partnership with a still-undetermined group of private companies who will operate the bridge.
The project summary alludes to hurdles for getting the project underway. But it does not detail legal and political efforts Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun has made to block construction of a new bridge that would compete with his 88-year-old crossing.
“The project was approved by the U.S. government in April 2013, is currently in procurement, and has been delayed by land acquisition issues,” the document says. Moroun owns properties that are among those still needed to be acquired.
The third Michigan project on Trump’s “priority list” is construction of a new 1,200-foot lock at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie that connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron through a critical shipping channel.
A new lock is estimated to cost $580 million and has been a top priority for Michigan’s congressional delegation for years. But efforts to secure funding for the massive infrastructure project have been stymied, even though Congress first authorized the project in 1986.
Snyder has said he intends to lobby the Trump administration on the need for a new lock in the event the aging 48-year-old Poe Lock were to be knocked out of service, blocking Great Lakes freighters from carrying iron ore to market. The 73-year-old MacArthur Lock cannot handle large freighters. Two World War I-era locks at the Soo Locks facility have been out of service for years.
“A recent Department of Homeland Security report predicted an unscheduled six-month outage of the Poe Lock would cripple the U.S. economy, cost 11 million jobs and shut down almost all North American appliance, automobile, construction, farm and mining equipment, and railcar production within weeks,” the Trump team’s infrastructure document says.
McClatchy’s Kansas City Star reported the document has been circulated within congressional and business communities.
– Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Kirk Pinho contributed to this report.