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Judge Denies Bridge Owner’s Challenge

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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Billionaire bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun seems to have lost another bid to block the construction of the proposed Gordie Howe International Bridge, between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, but at least one other challenge is still pending.

Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, has made numerous legal challenges to the Gordie Howe project, which would place the new bridge about two miles south of the Ambassador. The Gordie Howe would be a public bridge, run by a Canadian Crown corporation, whereas the Ambassador is run privately by Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co.

Ambassador Bridge
By Mikerussell, CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Matty Moroun's Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in terms of trade volume.

The Ambassador is currently the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in terms of trade volume.

The latest blow to Moroun’s efforts came last week, when Judge Robert Colombo Jr., of the Wayne County Circuit Court, denied Moroun’s request to stop condemnation proceedings on property he owns that stands in the way of the proposed bridge. Moroun owns a total of 17 properties in the immediate area, including a trucking depot. Moroun can appeal.

A number of businesses reportedly denied offers from the Michigan Department of Transportation for the purchase of their property that stands in the way of the bridge or other infrastructure updates such as approach ramps and toll plazas. Some, Crain’s Detroit Business reports, are seeking more money than was originally offered, but Moroun has long been more interested in stopping the project altogether.

Other Suits

In addition to the motion to stop the condemnation, Moroun filed suit in January against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, accusing him of circumventing the Michigan legislature in arrangements made with the Canadian government related to the Gordie Howe. That suit is still pending.

Previously, he had filed numerous suits, most revolving around claims that arrangements between U.S. and Canadian officials had been in violation of various laws. A suit that claimed that federal approval of the bridge was unconstitutional was rejected by a federal judge in January.

Ambassador Bridge Controversy

Moroun’s aging Ambassador Bridge has been subject to scrutiny from government officials over its safety and soundness. Last year, Canadian officials ordered emergency repairs to the structure, saying that barriers that were in place weren’t sufficient to stop a car from falling off.

In 2012, Moroun and Detroit International official Dan Stamper went to jail in a dispute with Michigan officials over the construction of ramps to and from the Ambassador Bridge.

Gordie Howe design proposal
Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, via YouTube

While a final design has yet to be determined, initial plans suggest the Gordie Howe will be either a suspension or cable-stayed bridge.

Detroit International has proposed a second span alongside the Ambassador, though the company has reportedly been unclear about the status of the original, which it has suggested may stay up to handle traffic in situations of heavy travel.

Last March, the U.S. Coast Guard gave the go-ahead to Moroun’s second-span project, irking local officials in Detroit and Windsor. The plan has numerous other regulatory hurdles to clear, however.

Gordie Howe Latest

The Gordie Howe International Bridge is in the middle of an 18-month RFP process for its design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance. Initial plans suggest it will be either a suspension or cable-stayed bridge.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, which is overseeing the project, announced earlier this month that the three design teams working on proposals will be required to incorporate a bicycle/pedestrian path into their designs.

When they met in February, President Donald J. Trump and Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said that they “look forward to the expeditious completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge,” which they said in a statement would “serve as a vital economic link between our two countries.”

The Gordie Howe project was also recognized as the 2017 Engineering Project of the Year at the CG/LA Project of the Year Awards, at the 10th Annual Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum, held March 1-3 in Montreal.


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

Comment from M. Halliwell, (3/16/2017, 11:27 AM)

Moroun is at risk of losing his private bridge monopoly....of course he's going to fight tooth and nail to keep it as it's hard to compete with the government (at any level) as a private company. Something tells me, though, he's not going to win this one and that a second bridge is coming.

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