By 2020, a new international bridge will be built across the Detroit River “accelerating the flow of people, merchandise and services”  between the United States and Canada for years to come. Not everyone is as thrilled about this venture as the pioneers of the project, resulting in a somewhat rocky path to finalizing plans and beginning construction on the bridge.
One community in particular has not had a voice at all throughout this process and will unfortunately suffer the brunt of environmental and social issues resulting from this new crossing. Delray, a low-income minority neighborhood in Southwest Detroit, lies in the midst of major trucking and shipping routes near the U.S. terminal for the Ambassador Bridge. Air pollution is rampant partially due to vehicle emissions and lack of enforcement of anti-idling laws . Additionally, this community suffers from heavy industry which surrounds the Delray neighborhood almost entirely.
Heavy industry, a shrunken population, hundreds of abandoned structures and blighted lots and high levels of poverty and pollution have characterized this neighborhood for decades . Delray is about to have one more unwelcomed guest in their neighborhood – the U.S. side of the new international crossing bridge. Governor Rick Synder of Michigan announced plans for the (then named) New International Trade Crossing in February 2012 . Originally proposed in 2004, this bridge received intense opposition primarily by Manuel Maroun, owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge . He argued that it would unfairly compete with his bridge while both car and truck traffic at the border is down . Joining Maroun in his fight were several social and environmental justice organizations who together sued the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2012 for failing to follow the federal government’s required decision making process and violating the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) Act and other laws when the decision was made to approve the new international crossing .
In this lawsuit, plaintiffs noted that this project “relied on erroneous traffic data, failed to examine alternative crossing locations and neglected to address environmental justice issues related to the new bridge’s effect on the low-income, minority Delray neighborhood of Southwest Detroit” . Carmen Munoz of the Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development said that other alternative locations were quickly dismissed once wealthy, politically active residents organized against development in their communities yet Delray residents and businesses, lacking the same political clout and money, have been ignored resulting in Delray being selected for the bridge . Bridge proponents have argued that a new crossing is needed because traffic will increase in the future, the project will provide jobs for Michigan workers and ensure smooth commerce . A new bridge crossing route in Ontario is already under construction and will provide uninterrupted traffic flow, bypassing more than 15 stoplights, thus allowing for faster and smoother commerce between the two countries. To ensure fulfillment of the project, Canada offered to fund the construction costs on Michigan’s side of the bridge, an appropriate that was turned down by Michigan Senate’s Economic Development Committee in October 2011 . With strong conviction, and separately from the Senate, an agreement between Canada and Michigan (namely Governor Snyder) was developed in 2012 to ensure the project will proceed with the Canadian federal government funding bridge construction, land acquisition in Michigan and the construction of I-75 on-ramps , an agreement hotly protested by State Representative Fred Durhal of Detroit who filed a complaint in February 2013 seeking to invalidate this agreement.
Durhal claimed that Gov. Snyder overstepped his constitutional authority when he bypassed lawmakers to pursue the deal on his own and that this was clearly “an overreach of executive power” .
In an attempt to halt bridge construction, the Moroun family spent millions on a Michigan ballot proposal in 2012 calling for a public vote before construction of any new international bridge.
This proposal was rejected by about two-thirds of voters in the November election .
On April 12, 2013 the federal government granted Michigan the permit required to build the bridge once details were finalized . Residents of Delray have long accepted the inevitability of the bridge, but in return they have made some small requests for compensation. These include green space, a few bike trails, and a way to mitigate the already high diesel emission in the area.
Unfortunately for this community, the state isn’t required to provide community benefits and has said it’s too early for there to be any specifics regarding community benefits . To be located about 2 miles downriver from the existing Ambassador Bridge, the new bridge’s main tower or pylon in Detroit will be located in the Delray neighborhood , a decision fought against by some in the court system. This community will also house the new customs plaza, for which the city will be buying out houses in 2015 .
About 700 residents will have to move to make way for this 170-acre customs plaza  and the rest will have to live with the decision.
On February 23, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a legal challenge to federal officials’ selection of the Delray neighborhood as the location for the new bridge, a challenge initiated by the Detroit International Bridge Company, owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge .
With no success in thwarting the proposed bridge, construction is now underway and is expected to be completed in 2020 with the official name of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, named after Canadian ice hockey player Gordie Howe who is best known for his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL . Canada will be funding construction of the customs plaza as well as Michigan’s side of the bridge, costs for which will be recouped through tolls collected on the Canadian side of the bridge.
So while this will not cost Michigan taxpayers anything , it remains to be seen the costs to those in the Delray community.