Feb 9, 2010

Ambassador Bridge Company’s power to bully demolished

Ambassador Bridge owner and GOP sugar daddy Matty Moroun's plans to build a second span next to the 80-year-old bridge without a single permit were demolished last week when Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentice Edwards ordered him to tear down the illegally constructed gas pumps and duty-free store built on property owned by the city of Detroit, according to the Detroit News.

Moroun, a Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor, wants to maintain his monopoly of an international border crossing, and he has begun building a second span right next to the current one. Michigan House and Senate Democrats have supported the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC)study that wants to build a new public-private bridge about a mile from the current Ambassador Bridge, but Senate Republicans, led by Alan Cropsey, are carrying water for Moroun’s plan to build a second, private for-profit Ambassador Bridge and keep his monopoly intact.

Some Michigan officials were concerned that the Ambassador Bridge Company was dragging their feet on the $170 million Gateway Project to endanger the project to kill the DRIC bridge. The Gateway Project addressed long term congestion mitigation issues and provides direct access improvements between the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96. The project will also reconstruct I-96 and I-75, accommodate traffic for a potential future second span of the Ambassador Bridge, and access to the Mexicantown International Welcome Center.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) had ongoing issues over contractual obligations with the Bridge Company, and the state could have been in danger of having to pay back the federal funds for the project if they failed to meet the original "Purpose and Need" of the project. That led to dueling lawsuits that were settled Friday,

The Bridge Company built a new duty free shop with a gas station that wiped out 23rd Street that it vacated without permission. The bridge company has a history of heavy-handed tactics, like taking Riverside Park and 23rd street because it claims an old act of Congress designated it an instrument of the federal government because it controlled traffic on an international crossing. That power to bully may also be in jeopardy.

According to the Detroit News, “
Moroun received another setback on Friday when the U.S. government filed its own lawsuit in U.S. District Court telling the bridge company to "cease and desist" referring to itself as a "federal instrumentality" in any bridge or court proceedings. Over the years, the bridge company has frequently referred to itself in this way as leverage in obtaining property belonging to the city of Detroit and to exempt it from various state and federal regulations. In May 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court voted 7-0 that because it dealt in international commerce, the Ambassador Bridge was a federal instrumentality, which gave it the right to proceed with its twin expansion project, including the construction of toll booths, pumps and duty-free shop.”

It’s unclear why a state court would have a say over a federal function, but you have to consider how pro-business and anti-consumer the court was then.

No comments: