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Bridge Owner Sues to Stop Gordie Howe

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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The owners of a major bridge on the U.S.-Canada border have filed a new lawsuit in an attempt to stop the construction of a new bridge nearby.

Six companies owned by the Moroun family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge, are suing to halt construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which has been in the works since 2004. The Ambassador links Detroit with Windsor, Ontario over the Detroit River; the Gordie Howe would be located just south.

Gordie Howe rendering
Renderings: Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, via YouTube

While designs have yet to be finalized, the authority has suggested the Gordie Howe International Bridge will either be a suspension or cable-stayed span.

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun has been a longtime, vocal opponent of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which is intended to be a public crossing, owned by a Canadian Crown corporation called the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. The Ambassador is the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in terms of trade volume.

Lawsuit Details

In the lawsuit, the companies, which include the Detroit International Bridge Co., which runs the Ambassador, argue that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder acted illegally when he worked out a deal with the Canadian government to fund construction on the American side of the bridge, without the approval of the Michigan legislature.

Gordie Howe rendering

In November 2016, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority issued a request for proposals for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the Gordie Howe, shown here in a rendering of one proposed form.

The companies, represented by attorney Mike Cox, also contend that the state legislature must approve the construction of any international bridge, per the state’s constitution. Legislation authorizing the bridge was never passed by state lawmakers, but Snyder signed onto an agreement with Canadian officials to move forward with the span in 2012.

President Barack Obama gave federal approval to the bridge plan in 2013.

Past Suits Dismissed

Moroun and his companies have tried for years to block the Gordie Howe International Bridge from coming to fruition. Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed a suit the Detroit International Bridge Co. filed arguing that the federal approval of the bridge was unconstitutional.

In September 2015, the same judge ruled that several other arguments Moroun made against the Gordie Howe construction were invalid.

RFP Issued

In November 2016, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority issued a request for proposals for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the Gordie Howe. The RFP process is expected to take 18 months; the construction is then reportedly predicted to last about four years. Construction of access roads on the Canadian side has already begun.

While designs have yet to be finalized, the authority has suggested the bridge will either be a suspension or cable-stayed span.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, the Gordie Howe construction is predicted to cost at least $2.1 billion.

At the same time, Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. has proposed a new Ambassador Bridge, to be built alongside the current bridge. That plan received U.S. Coast Guard approval in March 2016, but still needs a number of other government approvals before it can move forward.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Business matters; Funding; Government; Lawsuits; North America; Program/Project Management

Comment from Brandon Lecrone, (1/12/2017, 8:04 AM)

That's quite a deal for this bridge at only $2.1 million! (I think that should be a "b" instead of an "m").

Comment from Andy Mulkerin, (1/12/2017, 8:24 AM)

Correct, Brandon, of course! That figure has been corrected above. Thanks for reading (closely)!

Comment from Bill Patterson, (1/12/2017, 9:08 AM)

Hmmm! No implication in the article that the timing of this new suit relates in any way to Trump's ascendency. Will this develop into one of the expected many examples of the billionaires' club redirecting public policy to the financial benefit of its members, or is this just one more delaying tactic? It does sound odd from the northern side of the border though that the construction may not have had to be approved by the Michigan legislature.

Comment from John Perez, (1/12/2017, 10:29 AM)

The country needs the work and the bridge. No need to make everything about politics.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/12/2017, 12:37 PM)

I'm pretty sure this isn't about politics, but rather money. Moroun owns the bridge that is the busiest border crossing between the US and Canada (60-70% of the cross-border traffic in the region and 25% of the total between the countries, if Wikipedia is to be believed) . That is a lot of traffic. Moroun has his duty free stores and gas stations right there and with that much traffic, that's a serious amount of money coming in. Another bridge will cut into the traffic flow at the Ambassador and the corresponding profit from his shops. If he's making several million a year, what's a million dollar lawsuit if it delays the new bridge a couple of years and keeps his profit up in the interim.

Comment from Paul Archambo, (1/13/2017, 10:10 AM)

Its all about the money!! Look at the toll rates.

Comment from trevor neale, (1/16/2017, 2:31 PM)

A little research will reveal that a twinning bridge would have cost only 375 million and would have been operating by now if the politics had not shown up. In the meantime millions of dollars are being wasted in terms of time and trucks wait their turn to make the crossing - just saying !.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/17/2017, 10:51 AM)

Yup, an Moroun is right there with his gas stations and Duty-Free shops to help them while away the time. He doesn't have a monopoly on border crossings, but he's only got the tunnel as competition. There is a reason he's been fighting tooth and nail to keep another bridge from being built.

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