Judge’s rul­ing a set­back for Am­bas­sador owner over bridge

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY MARK HICKS The Detroit News

The owner of the Am­bas­sador Bridge was dealt a set­back Wed­nes­day when a judge ruled that an agree­ment between Michi­gan’s gover­nor and the Cana­dian govern­ment is valid.

In a rul­ing read from the bench, Wayne County Cir­cuit Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. de­clared a deal le­gal that Gov. Rick Sny­der struck with Canada in 2012 — and by­passed Michi­gan’s Leg­is­la­ture — to con­struct a sec­ond bridge con­nect­ing Detroit to Canada.

Am­bas­sador owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun has long been fight­ing the pro­posed Gordie Howe In­ter­na­tional Bridge in state and fed­eral courts. Last year, state of­fi­cials sued his Detroit In­ter­na­tional Bridge Co. and re­lated en­ti­ties to ac­quire between 20 and 30 parcels of land the groups own in the city’s Del­ray neigh­bor­hood near the pro­posed new pub­licly owned span.

A crit­i­cal part of the bridge com­pany’s chal­lenge to the case was the le­gal­ity of the 2012 pact.

At­tor­ney Mike Cox, who is rep­re­sent­ing Moroun, called the rul­ing “the first in many de­ci­sions in the lit­i­ga­tion.”

“We have ar­gued from the be­gin­ning that the law re­quires the Leg­is­la­ture au­tho­rize any new in­ter­na­tional bridge as it did for the Blue Water Bridge and the In­ter­na­tional Bridge in Sault Ste Marie,” said Cox. “…We ex­pect that when this process is fin­ished that this il­le­gal at­tempt to build an in­ter­na­tional bridge will be laid bare. And our ju­di­ciary will agree that MDOT and oth­ers in state govern­ment did not fol­low the ap­pli­ca­ble Michi­gan law and that any ef­fort to build the Gordie Howe In­terna- tional Bridge must start anew and must first be­gin with ap­proval from the Leg­is­la­ture.”

Mark Zaus­mer, a spe­cial as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral rep­re­sent­ing the Michi­gan Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion in the case, con­firmed the rul­ing but said he was not au­tho­rized to com­ment fur­ther.

There have been other le­gal fights as the Gordie Howe bridge ef­fort ad­vances and Moroun works to build a twin, six-lane span along­side the ag­ing Am­bas­sador, which opened in 1929 and is the busiest U.S.-Canada cross­ing point.

In Au­gust, a Michi­gan Court of Claims judge dis­missed a law­suit a com­pany af­fil­i­ated with the Mouron fam­ily brought against the state, say­ing the bridge own­ers waited too long to chal­lenge the 2012 cross­ing agree­ment.

Last month, an at­tor­ney for the Am­bas­sador own­ers told a fed­eral ap­pel­late court it would be “eco­nomic mad­ness” for the com­pany to erect the Gordie Howe bridge since the ri­val link could di­vert as much as 75 per­cent of com­mer­cial toll rev­enue from the older cross­ing, which has al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced de­clin­ing traf­fic.

Also in Septem­ber, the Cana­dian govern­ment granted Moroun a key per­mit to erect a re­place­ment span as part of his pro­posed Am­bas­sador Bridge En­hance­ment Project.

Canada is sup­ply­ing Michi­gan’s $550 mil­lion share of the $2.1 mil­lion, six-lane Gordie Howe bridge, which would be re­paid through tolls. The cross­ing is not ex­pected to open be­fore 2022.

In June, Detroit Mayor Mike Dug­gan an­nounced the city had reached an agree­ment with the state to sell land, as­sets and some streets for the project. Pro­ceeds were slated to fund neigh­bor­hood pro­grams and vol­un­tary re­lo­ca­tions.

Construction is sched­uled to start next year for the bridge, which links In­ter­state 75 and High­way 401 between an in­dus­trial area north of Zug Is­land and Wind­sor’s Brighton Beach area.

Sny­der and the Cana­dian govern­ment have said both bridges are nec­es­sary.

The Detroit News

The Gordie Howe In­ter­na­tional Bridge isn’t ex­pected to be com­pleted be­fore 2022.


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