Earlier this week, the U.S. Coast Guard sent his firm, the Detroit International Bridge Company, a letter terminating his application to build a second span next to his Ambassador Bridge.
The Coast Guard explained they couldn’t even consider his application for a number of reasons. First of all, it notes that there are issues of property rights that haven’t been resolved.
Actually, they have been resolved. Resolved against the Ambassador Bridge company. Last month a Wayne County judge ordered Moroun to tear down a duty-free store and some gasoline pumps he had constructed in anticipation of building a second bridge. The judge said they were built illegally, on property owned by the city of Detroit, and had to be removed.
Late last year, a different Wayne County judge ruled that Mr. Moroun had illegally occupied and fenced off part of the City of Detroit’s Riverside Park, and ordered him to vacate that too.
The Ambassador Bridge Company is appealing both decisions, but wouldn’t seem to have much chance. Additionally, it’s clear that the Canadian government doesn’t want him to build a second bridge next to his old one. There is considerable evidence that it would cause terrible traffic congestion and be an environmental hazard.
But it is equally clear that a new bridge is needed, The Ambassador has narrow lanes, no shoulders and is wearing out.
Traffic flow, which has been down because of the recession, is beginning to pick up. Bill Shreck, communications director for the Michigan Department of Transportation, noted that this is the “busiest and most important border crossing in America.”
There are four bridges between Niagara Falls and Buffalo. New York. If anything were to happen to the Ambassador Bridge, the economies of both Michigan and Ontario would be swiftly devastated.
Fortunately, there is a backup plan: For years, a group called the Detroit International River Crossing, or DRIC, has worked on a plan to build a second bridge across the rover, about two miles south of the Ambassador. This would be a publicly owned bridge, jointly supervised and inspected by the governments of both nations.
But, as I understand it, private investors would be welcome to invest in the new DRIC bridge as well, probably by buying bonds. Remarkably, this plan has the backing of just about everybody across the spectrum. Former Governors John Engler and James Blanchard favor the DRIC bridge. So does liberal Jennifer Granholm and the staunchly conservative Oakland County executive, L. Brooks Patterson. The Michigan Department of Transportation supports it, as do the governments of the United States and Canada.
Additionally, this proposed bridge has received environmental approvals from several agencies, including the Coast Guard.
But preliminary funding and approval has been held up by Mr. Moroun’s supporters in the Michigan Legislature, most notably Senator Alan Cropsey.
The last thing our state needs is someone risking our economic future for political games. The Coast Guard’s decision to cancel the Ambassador Bridge application ought to be seen as definitive.
We need a new bridge for international trade. It’s now clear that Mr. Moroun isn’t going to be allowed to construct one. Which means that it we don’t build it, prosperity isn’t going to come.