U.S., Canada OK plan for border-crossing bridge

$2.1 billion span will connect Detroit, Ontario

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DETROIT — The Obama administration and Canada have agreed on financing a key piece of a planned $2.1 billion bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, the two governments announced Wednesday.

The agreement involves a funding mechanism for a toll plaza on the U.S. side of the crossing, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. It says a “public-private partnership” will pay for the plaza’s construction, with reimbursement from bridge tolls.

Both governments have said the new bridge will create thousands of jobs and further stimulate the $658 billion annual trade between the nations.

“This agreement clears one of the final hurdles to building this hugely important bridge. Both Michigan and the entire nation will benefit,” U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement.

Authorities have said the limited capacity of the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge and the 85-year-old Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which is too tight for tractor-trailers, is an increasing impediment to trade.

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow called Wednesday’s deal “a critical step forward” for the project, long stymied by opposition from owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge who seek to add a new span of their own across the Detroit River. That opposition has blocked the needed U.S. funding for the plaza. The bridge itself already was to be built without U.S. funds.

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said the agreement ensures “that the new publicly owned bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Mich., can proceed without further delay” and that the project “will ultimately be delivered through a public-private partnership.”