Latest legal setback should end the challenges to new Detroit River crossing
Piece by piece, preparations for the new Detroit River bridge are falling into place. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared a potential major legal hurdle by refusing to hear a lawsuit brought by community activists and the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.
The challenge came from Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Citizens with Challenges, Detroit Association of Black Organizations and other community groups, along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador Bridge.
The parties claimed the Federal Highway Administration, in approving the Delray neighborhood of southwest Detroit as the site of the new crossing, violated the social and environmental justice provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and other federal laws.
Federal District Court Judge Avern Cohn rejected the lawsuit, and his decision was upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the Supreme Court has put the matter to rest.
It is the latest in a string of legal victories for Gov. Rick Snyder and other backers of the new Detroit River International Crossing.
Last summer, the appellate court also rejected the contention that the federal government had bowed to pressure from Canada in denying a permit for Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun to build a second span adjacent to his current bridge.
And earlier this month, the United States and Canada reached agreement for the Canadians to front the money for building out the customs plaza on the Detroit side of the crossing. As with the entire $2 billion cost of the bridge, which Canada is also putting up, the $300 million for the plaza will be repaid with revenue from tolls.
By now, the inevitability of the new bridge should be evident. Continuing court battles and other blocking moves is pointless.
Moroun, as well as the community groups, should stand down and let the process of building the bridge proceed.
Instead of continuing a futile fight, they should work with the state and federal governments to mitigate the community’s concerns.
There is no reason the crossing should be a negative for the devastated Delray neighborhood. The international trade expected to be generated by the bridge should create opportunities for warehouses and other logistic industry investments, and with them much needed jobs. The focus now should be on training local workers for those jobs, and making sure development unfolds in a manner that benefits the neighborhood.
As for Moroun, he should accept that he’s lost this battle. Further legal maneuvering is pointless. He has a major investment in the Ambassador Bridge, and it is natural that he would want to protect it.
But the government has no compelling interest in damaging Moroun’s business. He should be working with the state to assure there’s enough traffic to sustain both spans. Increasing trade traffic is the objective, after all.
Once construction begins, it will take five years to complete the crossing. There should be no further needless delays. This is a project vital to the region’s economy.