Court monitor’s reports side mostly with MDOT in Gateway Project dispute at Ambassador Bridge

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press Business Writer

Newly released private reports by a court-appointed monitor largely uphold the Michigan Department of Transportation’s version of events in its long-running dispute with the Ambassador Bridge company over the Gateway Project.

Charles Scales, a Detroit engineer, wrote the seven reports for Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards from last June through mid-January to summarize efforts by MDOT and the Detroit International Bridge Co. to finish the long-delayed Gateway Project.

The reports were secret until lawyers for DIBC requested last week that Edwards release them. Edwards agreed to do so.

The reports are significant because Edwards used the monitor’s summary to shape his ruling holding the bridge company in civil contempt and jailing billionaire businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun and DIBC President Dan Stamper last month.

The seven reports detail that DIBC did not provide required construction drawings to MDOT despite repeated requests for them, and did not convey land needed by MDOT to complete its portion of Gateway until just the past few weeks.

For example, in a July 6, 2011, report, Scales wrote, “At this point it is important to note that since the start of the monitor meetings, MDOT has regularly asked DIBC for drawings of the plaza on a regular basis. I have seen no indication that those plans have ever been conveyed to MDOT by DIBC.”

And the monitor reports support MDOT’s contention that it could not build the final leg of a truck ramp from the bridge to nearby interstates because DIBC withheld until a few weeks ago the needed legal clearances for MDOT to take control of the land from the bridge company.

For example, in a report dated last July 6, Scales wrote that “the requirement to transfer property from DIBC to MDOT, so that the MDOT process for awarding the contract to construct (the ramp) had not yet been done.”

And on Jan. 10 of this year, Scales wrote that “the MDOT connection to (the ramp) cannot be made due in part to issues regarding the conveyance of property owned by DIBC … ”

However, it remained unclear from the monitor’s reports whether the original design was clear enough to require, as MDOT demands, removal of the bridge company’s new ramp that would become its proposed second span to Windsor.

In a report last August, Scales warned the judge of repeated disagreements between the parties.

“The last several meetings have not been very productive,” he wrote. “DIBC has not presented any documents to MDOT that set forth the details of how the project is to be completed.”

And also last summer, Scales wrote, “From the start of our meetings, MDOT has made several requests to DIBC for a complete set of drawings of the entire project. DIBC has not provided the documents requested by MDOT.”

In a statement released today, DIBC said delays to Gateway were the fault of MDOT, not the bridge company.

“DIBC is the nation’s busiest border crossing with Canada. No one wants the Gateway completed more than us,” the statement said