Gordie Howe Progresses as Contractor Withdraws

THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2018

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun has lost yet another lawsuit to try to stop construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, while one of the contractors involved in a bid for the construction contract has withdrawn its participation in the project.

Moroun’s latest lawsuit was rejected by a three-judge panel upholding a prior Court of Claims ruling that several companies owned by Moroun missed a one-year statute of limitations for claims against the state of Michigan by failing to provide a timely notice of intent.

Bridge Plan History

In 2012, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder worked out a deal with Canada to construct a second bridge that would provide another route into the northern country, a project that would later become known as the Gordie Howe International Bridge; Moroun's privately owned Ambassador Bridge is currently the busiest crossing between Canada and the U.S. in terms of trade volume, the the Gordie Howe would be just miles away if built. Moroun has spent years fighting the Howe plan, attempting to make a case that the deal is null and void because it did not involve the state legislature's approval.

Moroun has brought several suits in the past, all shot down by the courts. In a ruling in October 2017, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. declared the deal to be legal.

As of November 2017, Chief Judge Judith W. Rogers also ruled that Michigan’s intermediate state appeals court was not wrong in honoring the international deal. Moroun’s lawyers had initially argued that state law prohibited Michigan from making the deal with Canada, but Rogers noted in her opinion that none of the challenges presented were persuasive.

As of late January, Canadian officials labeled the Gordie Howe International Bridge the country's foremost infrastructure priority; officials expect to sign a contract with the selected bidder by September.

The Latest Moroun Lawsuit

The lawsuit in question right now involves properties owned by Moroun that the state has attempted to acquire for the construction of the Gordie Howe. In 2016, Detroit International Bridge Co. and other Moroun-owned firms sued after the state made good-faith offers to purchase land near the new bridge; there was the risk of it becoming a “condemnation case,” according to The Detroit News, if an agreement could not be reached with relevant property owners.

The Court of Appeals ruled this month that the firms should have notified the state within one year of the 2012 crossing agreement.

“This is because when the crossing agreement was signed it was apparent that MDOT would need to acquire the properties located within the Bridge’s footprint,” the judges said.

Detroit International Bridge Co.

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun recently lost yet another lawsuit to try to stop construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, a consortium member bidding to build the international boundary-spanning bridge has also stepped down, but plans are set to move forward.

Other past litigation was taken into account in the ruling to show that Moroun’s International Bridge Company should have sued sooner. The judges noted that, for example, “in federal litigation, the DIBC indicated that it, among others, owned many of the properties in the project’s footprint. The DIBC also stated that it, among others, was in the process of expanding the Ambassador Bridge and that construction of the Bridge would infringe on the DIBC’s franchise rights.”

According to the court, the complaint referred to the 2012 crossing agreement, demonstrating that Moroun’s firms were aware of what would be impacted by the new crossing.

Moroun has not indicated if he will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Aecon Withdrawal

In an unrelated matter, Toronto-based Aecon Group, one of a dozen firms that composes the Bridging North America consortium bidding to work on the Gordie Howe, has announced its withdrawal from the bid.

Aecon’s withdrawal is largely rooted in the Group being too busy to get the project launched in the desired timeframe, noted John Beck, Aecon’s chief executive officer. The withdrawal reportedly has nothing to do with a proposal currently on the table to have Chinese firm China Communications Construction International Holding Ltd. take majority control of the contractor.
With majority control changing hands, there was concern over the Chinese firm being privy to the movement of goods and other confidential security information at the U.S.-Canada crossing.

The Canadian government has yet to approve the takeover, but a review has been underway for the past several months.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Contractors; Government; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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