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Detroit Bridge Co. Revives Plan For Harsens Island Crossing

CLAY TWP. (WWJ/AP) - Plans by the operator of the ferry to Harsens Island in Lake St. Clair to possibly end service have sparked renewed interest in building a bridge to the island by way of the Detroit International Bridge Company.

The bridge company, which runs the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, announced Wednesday it was ready to resurrect plans for a Harsens Island bridge. The announcement came one day after the island's only ferry company, Champion's Auto Ferry, sent notifications to island residents that it planned to end ferry service in the future.

The bridge company already owns the necessary land on the mainland and the island, as part of an aborted plan to build a bridge about five years ago, company President Dan Stamper told The Detroit Free Press. Stamper said the company had years ago talked to state officials about constructing a bridge to Harsens Island and completed most of the preliminary work, but the economy crashed and plans were shelved.

Stamper said his company's plan is to build a drawbridge that opens in the middle across the North Channel, which is about a quarter of a mile wide. He said the toll to cross would be comparable to the ferry's current rate of $7 per round-trip ride for a car.

Harsens Island is in St. Clair County's Clay Township, about 30 miles east-northeast of Detroit. The island has about 1,200 year-round residents and a summer population that swells to about 5,000.

Clay Township Supervisor Tom Krueger said a bridge would probably be welcome news to island residents.

"I think the people on the island are looking for some stable ingress and egress to get on and off the island," Krueger told The Detroit Free Press.

Champion's Auto Ferry offers year-round island access and transported more than 275,000 vehicles in 2011, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. The only other way to currently reach the island is via a small airstrip.

The Ambassador Bridge is owned by Manuel "Matty" Moroun, who is battling with state officials about building a new Detroit bridge. Read more, here.

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