Matty Moroun’s greed overshadows Detroit’s future

Property tycoon is trying to foil Canada’s plan for new bridge

By STEVE KRAUSE | The South End

The issue of whether a second span between Detroit and Windsor should be built is essentially moot at this point: The benefits outweigh the potential pitfalls two to one, and it all breaks down to the heightened greed of Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.

The plan, outlined by Gov. Snyder and the Canadian government, is to build a new bridge two miles south of the decaying and outdated 81-year-old Ambassador Bridge. The project would cost an estimated $950 million, all of which, from the agreement, would be paid for through the Canadian government. Subsequently, the federal government has allowed the Canadian loan to be matched, increased and applied to infrastructure spending over the next 10 years.

The Moroun family, who acquired the bridge through a stock-trading deal in 1979, operates a traffic monopoly along the border between Detroit and Windsor. The Detroit-Windsor tunnel has height limits, and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron is 60 miles north of the city. Michigan hosts 25 percent of the business between the U.S. and Canada, and the Ambassador Bridge is the most likely passageway.

Considering the bridge is privately owned and was built in the late 1920s leaves Michigan in a pathetic spot and is all the more reason for a public span funded entirely by the U.S. federal government, the Canadian government and the province of Ontario. If anything were to happen to the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit economy would spiral down into an even worse position.

Canada has promised to pay not only the entirety of their share but the entirety of ours as well, in addition to the costs of connecting it to I-75 on the U.S. side. The Moroun family has done everything in their power to convince the public that this fact is false, even though the legislation being drawn by Gov. Snyder completely protects taxpayers from any of the burden and creates a safety net in case the bridge isn’t as lucrative as expected.

Not to mention that the Canadians despise the placement of the Ambassador Bridge, which brings drivers out onto a regular road instead of an expressway. The city of Windsor is one of the most avid proponents of the new bridge because it would not only reduce congestion and pollution, but it would run directly into the 401 expressway, bypassing residential areas. This proposition also makes it attractive to trucking companies, which run the exports and imports to and from Canada, because they could go from I-75 to the new bridge and directly onto another expressway.

Aside from the Ambassador Bridge there is only one other privately-owned bridge from the U.S. to Canada: the International Bridge in International Falls, Minn. And while it’s perfectly legal for Moroun to own and operate the bridge, it’s absurd to reject the idea of a paid-for bridge from Canada over competition. He claims the two governments are abusing their power by collaborating, but this is simple conjecture because he’s using his political weight to buy off the Michigan legislature into believing his plan for a second private bridge is more worthwhile.

He claims the new bridge will cost the taxpayers more than $100 million, but he hasn’t expressed how he came to that number — probably because it’s overblown and false — and he claims the U.S. government won’t match Canada’s funds for a stipend for infrastructure funding in Michigan. According to Gov. Snyder, not only will they match it, but they’ll match it four times over and over a 10-year period.

It’s absurd that Moroun rejects the new span being public, considering it will create fierce competition with the Ambassador Bridge. Such a grand capitalist like Moroun should embrace the competition, a principle which drives capitalism, and welcome the plan, which will create an estimated 1,000 temporary jobs. Maybe Moroun only values competition when he’s the oppressor, or maybe he’s more concerned with his own profits over the future of Detroit.