Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Another round for Matty Moroun’s bridge plans

Brace yourselves for a new front on the cross-border bridge battle between the U.S. and Canadian governments and Detroit billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun.

Moroun is the owner of the Ambassador Bridge spanning the international border between the Motor City and Windsor, Ont. The latest round of hostilities between the two governments and Moroun comes courtesy of an excellent report in the Detroit Free Press.

The governments are working on a new international border crossing, the Gordie Howe Bridge, a six-lane alternative to Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge. The Ambassador is the only privately owned border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. In order to build the new span, the state of Michigan requires a 42-acre parcel of land, which currently belongs to Moroun as well.

Moroun has opposed the Gordie Howe Bridge, as it would directly compete with his Ambassador Bridge. He has proposed twinning his bridge as an alternative. As one can imagine, the paper reports that Moroun’s companies “have been reluctant to fully cooperate so far with the state’s property-acquisition efforts.”

The property in question – a trucking terminal – is located on the U.S. side of the proposed Gordie Howe Bridge span. One Michigan Department of Transportation official quoted in the story said the government has “got to have it” for the project to move forward.

MDOT has reportedly started the ball rolling on eminent domain proceedings, something lawyers for Moroun say they intend to challenge in court. The Free Press notes that Moroun acquired the terminal about six years ago, when plans for the Gordie Howe Bridge were first made public.

This legal tussle is only part of the ongoing turmoil between the state and the Moroun family, highlighted by Moroun winning a legal challenge last fall ordering the U.S. Coast Guard to either grant the company a building permit for its twin span on the Ambassador. Approval for the project could come this month, more than a decade after permits were first filed.