US-Canada bridge project gets presidential blessing

The Ambassador Bridge is shown in Detroit, Michigan June 2012 Congestion has become a major problem on the Canadian side of the 84-year-old Ambassador Bridge

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A new bridge between the US city of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, in Canada will be built despite opposition from the owner of an ageing span already linking the two cities, officials say.

The governor of Michigan and Canadian officials announced the $2.2bn (£1.4bn) project in Detroit on Friday.

The existing 84-year-old Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial link between the two countries.

Its owner has sought for years to block construction of a new bridge.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder celebrated the project at an event in Detroit, calling the bridge " a project where everyone will win", the Detroit Free Press reported.

"This is more than a bridge to me," he said. "It's about jobs and the future of this state."

He estimated construction would create 12,000 direct jobs and as many as 31,000 indirect new jobs.

'Growing trade'

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun, who says he stands to lose toll revenues, has sued over the proposal, arguing his company has exclusive rights over border crossings in the area.

He also backed an effort to pass an amendment to the Michigan constitution requiring a statewide vote on any new border crossing. The amendment failed last November.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (2nd R) and Denis Lebel (L), Canadian Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities shake hands after signing an agreement to build a new bridge called the New International Trade Crossing Detroit Michigan 15 June 2012 Canadian transport minister Denis Lebel (left) and Rick Snyder signed a bridge agreement last June

The announcement of the new bridge comes after US President Barack Obama and the state department signed off on a permit needed to build the new crossing.

While several steps remain before building begins, the presidential permit was seen as the most crucial.

The bridge is expected to be completed by 2020.

The total cost for the project, including land purchases and road construction, is expected to be about $2.2bn (£1.4bn).

Canada will pay Michigan's share of the bridge's construction, $550m (C$556m, £358m), recouping the outlay through future toll revenue.

Canadian Labour Minister Lisa Raitt attended the announcement.

Earlier, Ms Raitt said the new bridge would be needed "for growing trade and traffic at the busiest Canada-US commercial border crossing with over 8,000 trucks crossing each day".

Mr Moroun's lawyer told the Detroit Free Press that he will seek to block the permit.

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