Ambassador Bridge execs stay out of jail – for now anyway

TOLLROADSnews

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) continued to insist in court in Detroit this week that the Ambassador Bridge company executives are defying court orders to remove non-conforming structures and should be jailed for contempt of court. Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards sent bridge company president Dan Stamper to jail in January for contempt. But Stamper was released a few hours later after he and other officials promised to comply with court orders.

At issue are changes the Bridge Company made unilaterally to plans jointly agreed with MDOT for the layout of ramps and buildings in a MDOT-bridge company modernization of the approaches – called the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project.

That was a $230m project in which completely new interchange ramps were built connecting the bridge plaza to nearby I-75 and I-96, and new border clearance booths, toll plaza and duty-free stores and fuel stations were built.

After protracted litigation including appeals to higher courts the Ambassador Bridge Company was found to have violated its contract with the state, disregarding agreed plans. They were ordered to demolish non-conforming structures. These include fuel stations, toll booths, part of a duty-free store and bridge piers built for the as-yet-unapproved parallel span.

After the January court case and brief jailing of Stamper they were given – and said they accepted – a January 10, 2012 deadline for bringing the works into conformity with agreed plans.

MDOT officials say no way can the bridge co meet deadline

As of this week so little has been done Michigan state officials say there is no way the bridge company can meet the Judge’s deadline barely three months off.

In court this week Assistant Michigan Attorney General Robert Mol said: “The DIBC is in breach of the court’s order. They were earlier found in contempt, and they are in contempt today.”

Bridge Co say MDOT’s demands ambiguous and shifting

An attorney for the Bridge Company countered that Michigan DOT’s demands are “ambiguous” and that the Bridge Company is behind because “MDOT shifts the target according to its whim of the day… They keep moving the goal line.”

MDOT officials say this is ridiculous, that they have consistently asked for construction according to agreed plans.

The state’s lawyer showed aerial photographs from late last month and two years earlier when work was complete and said virtually nothing had been done to comply with the Judge’s order then to follow the agreed plans.

The bridge company lawyer said the Judge’s order can still be met by the mid-January deadline and the company is working to comply.

Edwards asked for ten page summaries of each side’s case by October 21 and said he’d rule on the contempt case against bridge company executives Nov 3.