Environmental review ruling sides with Snyder’s proposed bridge

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press Business Writer

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have lost an attempt to block Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed New International Trade Crossing bridge to Canada on environmental grounds.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled Thursday that the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) acted properly in its environmental review of the proposed bridge and its site-selection process. He thereby threw out a move by the Detroit International Bridge Company to block the project.

In his 45-page opinion, Cohn noted that the federal government included 103 reports and studies and over 130,000 pages of documents on various topics that formed the heart of its environmental review and site-selection process. Calling this an “exhaustive process,” Cohn ruled that, “It was a reasoned process and a reasoned decision.”

DIBC and other plaintiffs, including the Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, a non-profit group, had sought to block the court from affirming the government’s selection of a site for the new bridge in Detroit’s Delray district about two miles downriver from the Ambassador Bridge.

As Cohn noted, the government’s review under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is just one of the steps required before construction of a new bridge can commence. But Cohn’s affirmation of the government’s decision marks a blow to rivals hoping to block the project.

The Ambassador Bridge is owned by billionaire businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family, who have filed suits in a variety of courts in the U.S. and Canada seeking to block the project, also known as the Detroit River International Crossing, or DRIC.

Noting that the environmental review process consumed almost eight years, Cohn ruled that, “The court concludes that the FHWA acted in a reasoned and deliberative fashion when it approved the proposed new international bridge crossing in the Delray neighborhood. The assertion of plaintiffs that the FHWA acted arbitrarily and capriciously has no merit.”

The bridge company said it would appeal the ruling.

“DIBC intends to appeal to the Sixth Circuit and is confident that laws passed by Congress to protect the environment in the United States may not be disregarded for the benefit of the Canadian government,” the company said in a statement. “The arbitrary preference for government ownership and government spending versus American capitalism is not protected by Congress or Parliament.”