What does the Gateway dispute say about the Morouns’ ability to twin Ambassador Bridge?

By Jeff T. Wattrick | MLive.com

Back in July I asked Matthew Moroun, son of Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, why should the public believe the Detroit International Bridge Company has the capacity and wherewithal to actually build their long-desired second-span of the Ambassador Bridge?

While the DIBC obviously has been successful operating the Ambassador Bridge, they’ve never, to date, undertaken a construction project of the scale of a new international bridge across the Detroit River. Of course, few entities have done so either.

“It’s really a small club,” as Moroun said.

Nonetheless, it’s a club the Morouns wish to join, and Matthew Moroun was quite confident his family’s business could twin the Ambassador Bridge and make the project pay.

“We’ve taken care of one [international bridge],” Moroun said in July. “We’ve improved one. We’ve got 30-some years of experience successfully operating one. We’ve been planning it for a long time and invested a lot of money in the preparation of it, so that would be the experience side of it.

“The other side would be we can’t afford to lose. We can’t afford to fail. It’s all our money. It would be our reputation, our pride, our employees’ effort. It wouldn’t be an experiment for us, and we couldn’t run back to the taxpayers and say, well, it was a good idea when we floated it and I’m sorry the big dig didn’t come in under budget, in fact we were ten times over budget. I don’t think we could scream moral hazard like the government or an authority could.”

Leaving aside the usual concerns raised by Moroun critics about a second span—namely, that Canada won’t let it land, and another bridge using the same toll and Customs plazas won’t add real capacity to the border—it’s worth considering the issue of the DIBC’s ability to undertake such a project on its own.

The Gateway Project was an ideal real-world test of DIBC ability to undertake a major construction project.

Based on the numerous rulings of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards in the MDOT/DIBC Gateway Project dispute, a reasonable person would have to conclude that DIBC simply is not up to the task of building the bridge they want so badly.

As Edwards’ said today, Gateway should have been completed three-and-a-half years ago. DIBC has had almost two years to comply with a court order to complete the project. They haven’t.

They’ve failed.

That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. A judge has said so, repeatedly.

“After a careful review of the evidence, the court finds by clear and unequivocal evidence that the Detroit International Bridge Company is presently in violation of the February 1, 2010 order of this court [to complete Gateway],” Edwards ruled this morning.

DIBC President Dan Stamper has said in the past he disagrees with Edwards’ rulings, but DIBC is not appealing. Stamper’s opinion is just that, an opinion. An unchallenged judicial ruling carries significantly more weight.

Gateway wasn’t built entirely with the Morouns’ money. Much of the project was paid for by taxpayers, but it was (to quote Matthew Moroun) their reputation, their pride, their employee’s efforts on the line. That wasn’t enough to bring this thing on time and as initially planned.

What’s to say construction of a second Ambassador Bridge wouldn’t be undertaken in a similar fashion?