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Date Set for Moroun Challenge to Howe Bridge

Friday, June 16, 2017

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A Detroit billionaire’s latest appeal to stop the construction of an international bridge now has a court date.

Manuel “Matty” Moroun, billionaire and owner of the Ambassador Bridge, spanning the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, will go to court this fall in effort to stop the neraby construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The Gordie Howe would likely divert traffic away from the Ambassador, currently the busiest crossing in terms of trade volume on the U.S.-Canada border.

Moroun's current appeal relates to his argument that his Detroit International Bridge Company has exclusive rights to spans at the Windsor-Detroit section of the border, based on a bilateral U.S.-Canada agreement created in 1921, during the planning stages of the Ambassador Bridge. A judge rejected that claim in 2015, but Moroun has appealed.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the date of the appeal has been set for Sept. 14, and will be heard by a three-judge panel in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The proposed Gordie Howe bridge would be built two miles south of the Ambassador, and would be operated publicly, by a Canadian Crown Corporation.

Past Suits

Moroun has been responsible for filing a number of other suits, including one that accused Gov. Rick Snyder of circumventing Michigan legislature in dealings with the Canadian government regarding the Gordie Howe Bridge project.

The billionaire’s other suits have largely revolved around his claim that U.S. and Canadian officials made arrangements that were in violation of various laws. Last June, a federal judge rejected a suit Moroun had brought, claiming the Gordie Howe agreement was unconstitutional.

Moroun also attempted to challenge the condemnation of property he owns at the site of the Detroit side of the proposed Gordie Howe span. A judge rejected that appeal earlier this year.

Ambassador Condition

Over the past several years, the safety of the Ambassador Bridge has come under scrutiny. In 2016, Canadian officials had to order emergency repairs, as the barriers in place then were not enough to keep a car from falling off the bridge. In 2012, Moroun and Detroit International official Dan Stamper went to jail over a dispute with Michigan officials that involved construction of ramps to and from the Ambassador Bridge.

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

Matty Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Company owns the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest crossing between the U.S. and Canada in terms of trade.

In response to concerns about the Ambassador's condition, Detroit International has proposed a second bridge that would run alongside the Ambassador, but at the time that proposal was first introduced, the company remained unclear about the status of the original bridge. Detroit International did go on to suggest that the old Ambassador Bridge could remain operational to handle additional traffic during busier times.

Last year, the bridge was given a preliminary go-ahead by the U.S. Coast Guard, but this only irked officials on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. There are a number of additional regulatory hurdles that would need to be overcome in order for a second Ambassador to come to fruitiion.

Gordie Howe Status

In early May, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority issued $86 million in contracts for Phase Two prep work on the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The private partner in the public-private partnership has not been selected, but will be one of three finalists: Legacy Link Partners, Bridging North America or CanAm Gateway Partners. The design will be either a cable-stayed or suspension bridge.

According to CBC News, the span is projected to open in 2020.


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

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