A Republican plan to sneak language into the state’s COVID-19 bill to allow trucks to transport hazardous and toxic materials across the Ambassador Bridge has backfired after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the potentially dangerous provision on Tuesday.
The line-item veto delivered a blow to the billionaire Moroun family, which owns the Ambassador Bridge and wants permission for trucks to carry fuel, flammable chemicals, and corrosive materials over the 91-year-old span.
The provision would have allowed for “flammable gases,” “poisonous gases,” “spontaneously combustible materials,” “dangerous when wet materials,” “poisonous materials” and “corrosive materials” to be transported across the bridge.
Since 1929, the Michigan Department of Transportation has banned hazardous materials from crossing the Ambassador Bridge.
Environmentalists, Detroiters living near the bridge, and some Democrats opposed the plan, saying the Ambassador Bridge is old, not sufficiently inspected, and lacks proper technology and safety protocols to be safely used to transport hazardous materials.
State Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, was a vocal opponent of the plan, telling lawmakers that the provision is “downright dangerous,” violates federal law, and includes “harmful boilerplate language ordering the Michigan Department of Transportation to ignore facts (and) ignore my community.”
Earlier this month, the measure passed the state House 97-5, and the state Senate approved the bill 35-2.
Officials from the Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC), which operates the span, argue that the Ambassador Bridge is the safest and most efficient route for hazardous materials traveling to and from Canada. With the ban in place, hazardous materials are trucked across the international border via the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry and Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Those routes are more dangerous, they say, because hazardous materials are forced to take more circuitous routes that cover a larger area, which increases the risk of an accident. The trucks also pass through more densely populated neighborhoods in the state, they argue.
Whatever the case, the veto doesn’t end the battle. DIBC plans to meet with MDOT soon in hopes of gaining permission to once again use the bridge to transport hazardous materials.
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