Editorial: Let receiver finish the work Moroun should have completed

Detroit Free Press

The $230-million Gateway project should have had traffic flowing smoothly at the Ambassador Bridge by now and taken bridge traffic off local surface streets. That’s what it was designed to do when planning for this monster project started two decades ago.

But congestion continues more than two years after the Detroit International Bridge Co. should have finished its portion of the Gateway project, with trucks still clogging Fort and other local streets. Instead of building dedicated roadways to get traffic from the freeways to the bridge, Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun appears to be funneling traffic in and around his duty-free shop and fuel pumps. Those fuel pumps must be relocated to make way for roadways connecting the freeways to the bridge.

Earlier this month, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards ruled that the Detroit International Bridge Co. had ignored his February 2010 order to complete its portion of the Gateway project. He found the company guilty of civil contempt and ordered Moroun to appear in court on Jan. 12 to face penalties that could include jail time.

All this sounds harsh, but Edwards, who will decide what sanctions to impose on the company, should no longer allow bridge executives to deny motorists the benefits of this enormous public project.

Given the bridge company’s recalcitrant behavior, a court-appointed receiver to take control of the project appears to be the only reasonable option. Financial sanctions would mean little to Moroun, and appointing a contractor to finish the job would give Moroun’s company ample opportunity to interfere.

The Michigan Department of Transportation started construction on the project in 2007 and finished in 2009. Moroun’s portion of the work should have also wrapped up by 2009. MDOT sued and, in February 2010, Edwards ruled that Moroun’s company had broken its agreement with the state. The 2010 order required the bridge company to complete the work it agreed to do, including building roads and ramps to join the Ambassador Bridge to I-75 and I-96.

In January 2011, the court found the bridge company in civil contempt for failure to complete its part of the project. The court ordered the bridge company to fully comply within a year.

Enough is enough.

Moroun’s company appears unwilling to finish the work as directed. A receiver could complete the job in a construction season — or by late 2012.

Moroun’s son, Matthew, continues to link the company’s problems with the Gateway project to its dispute with the state over building a publicly owned crossing between Detroit and Windsor. That’s nonsense. There is no link — except that the obstinate and self-serving behavior of the bridge company on Gateway raises serious doubts about whether it should hold a monopoly at Detroit’s international crossing.