By Dawson Bell
LANSING, Michigan (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Friday issued a permit for construction of a new $1.5 billion bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, to ease congestion at the busiest commercial crossing with Canada.
The State Department granted the permit, which clears the way for the purchase of land and construction to begin in about two years. The bridge is expected to be finished in about seven years.
"This is about jobs for today and tomorrow," Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement.
The permit would allow the building of a second span near the landmark Ambassador Bridge, which is the busiest commercial crossing on the Canada-U.S. border with more than 1.5 million truck passages last year, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.
Canadian authorities have agreed to cover Michigan's share of the $1.5 billion projected costs. Michigan will repay Canada with future toll revenue. Snyder originally sought approval of the bridge project in the state legislature, but was stymied.
The family of Manuel "Matty" Moroun, which owns the existing Ambassador Bridge, has mounted vigorous opposition to the construction of a new crossing, planned to be located two miles south of the current bridge.
Moroun calls it unfair, government-sponsored competition. A lawsuit filed by the bridge company, challenging the issuance of the federal permit, is pending in federal court in Washington.
Snyder said in his statement the permit clears the way for the creation of an international authority to acquire land, plan the span and oversee construction, a process he said would take about seven years.
Snyder is scheduled to attend a news conference Friday afternoon in Detroit to announce the State Department decision.
(Reporting By Dawson Bell; Editing by Greg McCune and Tim Dobbyn)