Statewide poll results split on whether new Detroit bridge should be public or private
Result shows support for public and private plans about equal
Paul Egan/ Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Lansing— Michiganians are evenly split on whether a new bridge across the Detroit River should be public or private, according to a new statewide poll.
The results were released to The Detroit News as a Senate committee resumes hearings today on legislation to create a public authority to oversee construction of an international bridge that would be publicly owned but financed, built and operated by a private company.
The publicly owned bridge, backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and many business and labor groups, is opposed by Manuel "Matty" Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge and wants to use private money to build a second bridge beside it.
The poll of 600 likely voters found 33 percent favored public involvement in a new international bridge, while 31 percent said the private owners of the Ambassador should build it. Eighteen percent said they didn't know, 16 percent said they didn't favor either approach, and 3 percent said an unspecified third method should be used.
"Despite all the rhetoric and all the money and all the time and energy that's been put into this by both sides, you're still seeing the electorate split right down the middle," said T.J. Bucholz, a director of the bipartisan Lansing-based public relations firm Lambert, Edwards & Associates.
The poll, commissioned by Bucholz's firm and The Perricone Group and conducted by Denno Research, included a range of political and cultural questions and two bridge questions. Bucholz said the poll was conducted to demonstrate the company's research capabilities.
Chuck Perricone is a former Republican House Speaker. Dennis Denno is a former Democratic communications expert. Nobody involved in the poll works for either side in the bridge debate, Bucholz said.
The full results of the poll, conducted Thursday and Friday, are to be released this week.
Tom Shields of Marketing Resource Group, spokesman for the coalition backing the public bridge, said the results are significant since he estimates more than $2 million has been spent on ads supporting the Ambassador Bridge owners' position.
Mickey Blashfield, director of government relations for the Ambassador Bridge, said he didn't want to comment without seeing the poll's methodology and other questions.
In a January poll by Glengariff Group Inc. of 600 registered voters, 42 percent support building a public bridge while 46 percent oppose it; 12 percent had no opinion.
The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Of those polled, 43 percent described themselves as Democrats, 36 percent as Republicans and 18 percent as independents.
Also Tuesday, the Ambassador's owners said they will meet a court-imposed January deadline to build a traffic ramp and relocate toll booths illegally constructed at the $270 million Gateway Project to ease the flow of traffic to the bridge.
However, Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co. said the company will continue to fight a court order to remove fueling stations and tear down "Pier 19," a support structure that is part of its proposal for its second span across the Detroit River.
Stamper said, "We continue to move forward with court-ordered construction in order to maintain progress."