Part of Gateway Bridge project opens, eases congestion in Detroit

By John Gallagher

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

For the first time, U.S.-bound trucks coming off the Ambassador Bridge on Monday were able to connect directly with nearby interstates without driving along surface streets in Detroit.

A new truck road connecting the bridge to expressways opened Monday as part of the long-delayed, $230-million Gateway Project, a plan to ease border crossings with direct links between the bridge and nearby highways, said Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi.

MDOT scheduled a ceremony for 10:30 a.m. today to open the road, but construction crews were able to open it Monday, Morosi said. The ceremony will still be held; Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to speak.

This has not been a fast road to completion: MDOT and the Detroit International Bridge Co. signed a contract in 2004 to build the project jointly. But MDOT sued the bridge company in 2009, charging that it did not build its portion as agreed.

After protracted legal proceedings, Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards found the bridge company in civil contempt of court and, in March, ordered MDOT to seize control of the bridge company’s portion of the project and complete it as soon as possible. The Court of Appeals upheld that decision last month. The Michigan Supreme Court rejected hearing an emergency appeal.

The bridge company is owned by billionaire businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family, who have long battled MDOT over the project.

MDOT has said that the entire project would be finished by sometime in September.