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Canada takes reins on bridge project

A second international bridge will span the Detroit River at no cost to Michigan, U.S. and Canadian leaders announced Friday, hailing a project they said will create thousands of jobs and stimulate trade between the nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the "truly visionary project" will "mean both jobs and growth" in each country.

Under the terms of the agreement, Michigan isn't obligated to pay any of the costs of the bridge, which Gov. Rick Snyder said will cost $950 million. Both countries would be represented on a bridge board, and a Canadian entity would handle design, construction and operation of the bridge.

Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley joined Harper and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at Friday's event in Windsor. A signing ceremony on the New International Trade Crossing agreement was held later in the day at Detroit's Cobo Center.

Harper said he makes a lot of important announcements, but that this is "the single most important" international infrastructure project he will undertake as prime minister. He said it will also be one of Canada's best investments.

"The revenues generated by this project will pay for this project," he said.

The cost to build Michigan's half of the bridge would be repaid through tolls collected on the Canadian side of the bridge, but Snyder wouldn't estimate how long that would take.

Canada's government would fund the purchase of land in Canada and Michigan, as well as the cost of building roadways to connect the bridge to Interstate 75 in Detroit. The governor said he expected construction would be finished in fewer than 10 years.

Snyder called the new bridge, which would cross the Detroit River south of the existing Ambassador Bridge, vital to enhancing the $70 billion-a-year trade relationship between Michigan and Canada.

Manuel "Matty" Moroun, the private owner of the Ambassador Bridge, has fiercely and publicly opposed the Canadian-financed span. His Detroit International Bridge Co. wants to add a span of its own.

The advertising and lobbying campaign has influenced a number of Snyder's fellow Republicans in the Michigan Legislature. On Thursday, the GOP-controlled state House approved a supplemental budget bill that bars the governor from spending state money on a U.S.-Canada bridge.

Snyder has said a separate bridge between Detroit and Windsor is needed, even if Moroun carries out his plans to add a second span.

"I still believe we're in a crisis," Snyder said, even as the state benefits from falling unemployment and rising auto sales. "There's no time to wait."