Ambassador Bridge owners accused of delays on building ramps

BY MATT HELMS
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

The state on Monday accused Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge company of more stalling tactics in the long-delayed project to finish ramps between the busy border crossing and nearby freeways rebuilt in 2007-09.

Dan Stamper, president of Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co., and one of its consultants testified during a hearing Monday that the bridge company will complete the work by a Jan. 11, 2012, deadline set by Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards.

“Our engineers, our contractor, is committed to that delivery of the project,” Stamper said.

But Assistant Attorney General Robert Mol said the bridge company’s plans don’t include removing a pier adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge that the Moroun organization built as part of its hoped-for second span across the Detroit River, or other adjustments the state wants removed. “There is no way they will meet that schedule,” Mol told Edwards.

At issue is whether the bridge company is complying with court orders in the battle over the $230-million Gateway Project, a 2004 deal between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the bridge company to modernize I-75 and I-96 and build seamless connections between the bridge and the expressways.

MDOT contends the DIBC did not build its share according to agreed-upon designs. Edwards has ordered the DIBC to rebuild its portion.

The bridge company testified that it is making progress, including efforts to relocate toll booths and lucrative duty-free gas pumps. But the DIBC said MDOT isn’t cooperating.

The DIBC had sought to delay Monday’s hearing and tried to convince Edwards to force MDOT to comply with subpoenas for documents related to the plans. The bridge company lost both counts, with Edwards calling the actions “simply a strategy of delay.” Bridge company lawyer Reginald Turner denied the allegation. The hearing continues today.