The billionaire who cried wolf: Judge Prentis Edwards simply out of patience with Matty Moroun’s bridge company

By Jeff T. Wattrick |

Attorneys for the Detroit International Bridge Company almost make a good point when they say DIBC’s timeline for completing the Gateway Project is six months, while MDOT estimates it will need a year to go from a dead start to finishing the project.

Of course, for that argument to be valid, you must actually believe DIBC really intends to complete the Gateway Project, according to the court order, in six months.

“We have turned the corner,” said DIBC attorney Godfrey Dillard in court this morning. “It is our intent to comply with the court order…We have put down our swords.”

The problem is, after two years of legal wrangling since that order was given, Edwards simply didn’t believe DIBC new found religion.

After the hearing, even Dillard conceded that point.

“The project has a credibility problem and there’s been a lot of negativity that has surrounded the project,” he said. “When you come in after five, six, seven years, or two years, and you try to start fresh, it’s difficult to do.”


Judge Edwards told the Matty Moroun-owned Bridge Company to finish the Gateway as laid out in the initial contract with MDOT in February 2010.

It’s like Let’s Make a Deal. Edwards’ could take the new washer/dryer set Monty Hall MDOT was offering, or he could take whatever DIBC had behind door #2–it might be a fabulous new 1975 Datsun with AM radio and California emissions, but it’s equally likely to be the billy goat.

After 25 months and, apparently, Edwards decided MDOT’s slower construction time line was the sure thing and now Gateway is MDOT’s responsibility. DIBC and the Moroun just have to pay the bill.

That makes sense because, really, if DIBC actually wanted to wrap this thing up in six months, Gateway would have been finished in September 2010.

Everyone including Edwards agreed that in a perfect world DIBC should finish the work they agreed to. DIBC had chance after chance to comply with the court order, but they never did.

There was a telling moment during today’s hearing when Dillard tried to argue that Detroit bureaucrats have blocked DIBC’s attempt to get 23rd Street vacated.

“As you know, Judge, we had put in an application with the city of Detroit to vacate 23rd Street,” explained Dillard. “However, that application has been bogged down by the law department on the grounds that there is a federal statute that requires some kind of approval by a local community group. Unfortunately, there is no longer a community group in that area because they area is vacant and has been completely paved over.”

Ignore for a second that 23rd Street was “completely paved over” because DIBC commandeered it, and also ignore that initial plans envisioned a ramp carrying Gateway traffic over 23rd Street, the crux of the argument here is DIBC’s request to have the street “vacated” was bogged down by, well, laws about vacating public streets.

As with the boy who cried wolf, it became difficult to know when DIBC was on the level and when they were too cute by half. In the end, as Edwards decided today, it’s no longer worth anyone’s time (be it the court’s or the taxpayers’) trying to figure it out.