Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s bridge company could face court sanctions

BY JOHN GALLAGHER
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s company may face court sanctions today in the long-running dispute over how to connect his bridge to nearby freeways.

Moroun’s representatives will be in court this morning to answer Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards’ concerns about why Moroun hasn’t rebuilt his approach ramps to the bridge as Edwards ordered in February 2010.

In January, Edwards briefly jailed Dan Stamper, president of Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co., for not complying with Edwards’ order. In a recent letter, the judge told all parties that since the bridge company still has not complied, “further court involvement is required.”

The dispute stems from the $230-million Gateway project, a joint project by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Moroun’s company to connect the Ambassador Bridge directly to I-75 and I-96 through a series of ramps.

The bridge company built its portion of the project in a way that keeps trucks on Fort Street and built a lucrative duty-free facility where ramps were supposed to go. MDOT sued to force the company to rebuild the approaches according to the agreed-upon plan.

Time running out for Moroun company to avoid work on Gateway project

Time may be running out for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s company to avoid rebuilding its bridge approaches as the state and a Wayne County judge have demanded.

A hearing this morning before Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards could result in further action to force Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. to comply.

In a June 2 letter from Edwards’ law clerk to all parties in the dispute, Edwards expressed concern that the bridge company still appears to not be complying with his February 2010 order to rebuild the approach ramps to the Ambassador Bridge as demanded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The court has serious questions regarding whether DIBC will be able to satisfy the … deadline” of next January for completing the rebuilding of the so-called Gateway project, the letter said. “The reasons for the avoidance … are not clear. It does appear that further court involvement is required.”

The bridge company did not respond to a Free Press request for comment Wednesday. In previous court hearings, the company has maintained that the changes it made to the Gateway design were minor alterations allowed under its contract, a position rejected by Edwards in his 2010 ruling.

The dispute stems from the $230-million Gateway project, a joint project by MDOT and the bridge company to connect the Ambassador Bridge directly to I-75 and I-96 through a series of ramps. The bridge company built its portion of the project in a way that keeps trucks on Fort Street, and MDOT sued to force the company to rebuild the approaches according to the agreed-upon plan.

In a recent motion before Edwards, MDOT’s lawyers asked the judge to compel the bridge company to make “real and meaningful progress towards the timely completion of the Gateway project within the one-year deadline.”

In its motion, MDOT contended that five months after Edwards issued his one-year deadline to rebuild, the bridge company “has not started construction of a single dedicated public road” as required, “nor has DIBC removed any conflicting structures that are in the path of any of these dedicated public roads,” a reference to Moroun’s lucrative duty-free store.

The state motion continued, “Instead, DIBC has put the majority of its efforts into proposing amendments to the existing agreed design, as well as constructing non-Gateway project related items, including an employee parking lot, electrical work, a road under Pier 19, etc. DIBC has not made a good-faith effort to comply with this court’s orders.”