Moroun sees another legal challenge tossed in bridge dispute

Detroit Free Press

BY MATT HELMS
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Another attempt by Ambassador Bridge operators to reverse a 2010 ruling forcing it to complete ramps between the bridge and nearby freeways has been thrown out, with the judge calling the effort frivolous and ordering the firm to pay the state’s legal fees.

Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. had asked Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards to toss out an affidavit by a key former Michigan Department of Transportation engineer, Victor Judnic, saying he had testified to facts about construction in the $230-million Gateway Project that he couldn’t have known about.

The bridge company argued that Judnic’s affidavit was a crucial underpinning of testimony persuading Edwards to side with MDOT in 2010. Judnic, who was a chief engineer on the project that shut down I-75 for nearly 17 months in 2008 and 2009, has since left MDOT for a private-sector job but consults for the state.

MDOT says the bridge company violated contracts and unilaterally built a bridge pier and gas pumps that interfere with traffic flow.

Edwards’ ruling, dated June 17 but released today to MDOT, said the bridge company has repeatedly tried to thwart his rulings, and the attempt to have Judnic’s affidavit thrown out lacked legal merit. The judge ordered the bridge company to pay MDOT’s legal fees in that matter.

Bridge company officials couldn’t be reached for comment immediately today. They said Tuesday they will complete the project by Edwards’ January 2012 deadline.

Edwards ordered bridge company president Dan Stamper to face contempt charges July 7. Edwards briefly jailed Stamper in January for not complying with orders to finish the work.