FEATURE-After long fight, new bridge for Detroit may be in sight

Wed Dec 11, 2013 1:01am EST
 
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By Nick Carey

DETROIT Dec 11 (Reuters) - A decade ago Les Cadman stopped making improvements to his small house in Detroit's declining Delray district because it stood in the path of a proposed bridge to Windsor, Ontario, the bustling Canadian city just across the Detroit River.

"Why bother fixing the place up when it looked like it would become a tear down?" asked Cadman, a former trucker, still spry at age 83.

Ten years on and his house no longer directly in the bridge's path, Cadman and other residents of this forgotten neighborhood near the Detroit River are still waiting to see what a new bridge and a proposed 170-acre (70-hectare) U.S. customs plaza would mean for their community.

Years of opposition to the project, led by the billionaire private owner of the lone existing bridge from Detroit to Windsor, have helped keep plans for the new bridge on hold. This has left residents and community groups preparing for an eventual construction boom - but without knowing when it might start.

"We have had hundreds of meetings (with government officials) but we haven't got anywhere," said Tom Cervenak, executive director of the area's community center. "It's become comical."

But after years of delays, the chances of the bridge being built are improving, bridge supporters say. The project will need $250 million in federal funding, and there could always be a new legal challenge, but expectations are rising.

"We know it's coming and maybe soon, whether people like it or not," said Simone Sagovac of the Community Benefits Coalition, which is lobbying on behalf of local residents.

A federal judge ruled last Tuesday that Detroit is bankrupt under federal law, prompting hope that the Motor City can emerge with a fresh chance for success. And a $4 billion bridge project would provide just the type of jobs and opportunities the city needs.   Continued...