Wall Street Journal Editorial Board –
Mexico isn’t paying for that border wall, but Canada has volunteered to single-handedly finance
a bridge to facilitate trade with the United States. Supporting this deal should be easy for the
Trump Administration, but a family special interest has launched a last-ditch lobbying effort to
persuade President Trump to block this shovel-ready, multibillion-dollar project.
Canada is the largest export market for American goods, and more than one-fourth of all goods
exchanged traverse the Detroit River connecting Detroit and Windsor, Canada. There are only a
few ways across: the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which is too low for almost all commercial trucks;
the rail and barge system, which is devoted to oversized or hazardous goods; and the privately owned Ambassador Bridge that holds a virtual
monopoly on cross-border truck traffic.
Built in 1929, the bridge is two years younger than its longtime owner, Detroit billionaire Matty
Moroun. In 2015 large chunks of concrete began falling from the bridge onto Windsor streets.
The bridge has four operational lanes on a good day, not nearly enough for the 2.5 million
trucks that traversed it last year.
There’s no direct connection from the bridge to Canadian freeways, and multiple stoplights
gum up the bridge’s entrances in Windsor. Traffic is often snarled on both sides of the border.
Time is money, and delays in border crossings are expected to cost Americans $15 billion
annually by 2020, the nonprofit Canada West Foundation concluded in 2017.
Enter the long-planned Gordie Howe International Bridge, slated for construction two miles
west of the Ambassador Bridge. Though American exporters and trucks will use the new bridge,
Canada has agreed to finance the entire project, including labor, construction and property
acquisitions. Gordie Howe will connect directly to U.S. Interstate 75 and Canadian Highway 401,
relieving the traffic misery. Michigan gets joint ownership of the finished bridge.
But the Moroun family wants to maintain its chokehold on cross-border traffic and an estimated
$60 million in annual tolls. They’ve suggested building their own new bridge, and they’ve
fought tooth and nail against Gordie Howe. But their 2012 ballot measure failed to persuade
Michigan voters, and some two dozen lawsuits have failed.
Gordie Howe is scheduled to break ceremonial ground in Detroit this week, with construction
beginning in the fall. But the Morouns haven’t given up. In an ad on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News last month,
they appealed directly to Mr. Trump to revoke a key permit approved by the
State Department in 2013. One ad claimed the Obama Administration granted a waiver “so the
new bridge wouldn’t have to use American steel.” It also suggests that the bridge favors
Canadian workers over Americans.
Mr. Trump should see through this obvious con. Ottawa is picking up the whole tab, so it’s
reasonable to reject a prohibition on Canadian steel and iron. But all metals used on the bridge
will be North American, including some from the 48 states. The crossing agreement for Gordie
Howe explicitly states that there “shall be no discrimination . . . in favour of Canada over the US
with respect to any products, materials, supplies, labour or services.”
Several hundred Americans are doing preparatory work in Detroit, and Canada has brought
some Michiganders to help in Windsor. Canada is offering the United States the deal of the
century. Apparently the Morouns think Mr. Trump can be suckered out of it.