Gateway Project advances; end of truck traffic on local roads in sight

By Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Detroit — After a nearly three-year delay in the Gateway Project, work has begun that could reduce by half the truck traffic on surface streets near the Ambassador Bridge by next month.

Crews have poured the remaining two sections of a 500-foot-long gap in the ramp that will eventually hook a two-lane truck access road from the bridge to Interstates 75 and 96 that the Michigan Department of Transportation hopes to open by May 20.

The entire project, which could be completed by late September or early October, is meant to remove up to 10,000 trucks a day from secondary streets in southwest Detroit and move them directly to and from the bridge to the nearby interstates.

The completion of that truck road will be a huge advance in the $230 million project, which has been held up for years by legal battles between MDOT and Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co.

Last month, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards virtually ended all conflicts between the state and Moroun’s company by giving MDOT complete control of the project.

As part of his decision, Edwards ordered the bridge company to cooperate fully with MDOT and to transfer $16 million in operating costs to the state for the remaining construction — lawyers for the bridge company have since filed an appeal to the judge’s ruling.

For its part, after receiving control of the Gateway, MDOT officials said they would initiate a “design/build” strategy by quickly opening the project to engineering firms and construction companies.

MDOT announced Monday that Dan’s Excavating of Shelby Township and Transystems of Kansas City, Mo., were the low-bid, design-build team for Gateway, with a bid of $9.3 million coming in less than the $16 million estimated cost to finish the project.

MDOT will make its decision on the team’s bid by midweek once all the “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” are crossed, transportation officials said.

“Then we will start actual construction on April 16th,” said Tia Klein, senior contract and project administration engineer for MDOT. “Part of that construction will be the deconstruction of Pier 19, which will allow us to begin construction on the truck access road leading to the completed ramp.”

As of Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals hadn’t made a ruling on Moroun’s appeal of Edward’s orders.

Former MDOT director Pat Nowak, a member of a special committee that had been set up by the bridge company to finish the project before Edwards gave control to MDOT, told The News: “We did everything the court asked, purged our contempt as the judge ruled and still the court took away our construction project.”

The new concrete, which was poured Friday, is covered to keep it wet. It needs about 10 days to cure before receiving what is believed to be the highest volume of truck traffic in Michigan.