Moroun’s lawyers are back at it with new lawsuit

State rep sues to overturn Snyder-Canada bridge deal

By Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A state lawmaker from Detroit is seeking to derail Gov. Rick Snyder’s partnership with the Canadian government to build a Detroit River bridge to Windsor.

Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, recently filed a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court challenging Snyder’s legal authority to enter into an agreement with Canada without the Legislature’s approval.

Durhal announced the suit Friday.

After legislation authorizing a new bridge failed to get out of a Senate committee in 2011, Snyder bypassed the Legislature and signed a deal with Canadian officials last June that calls for Canada to build a $2.1 billion bridge from Windsor to southwest Detroit.

Canada agreed to front Michigan’s $550 million share of the cost, which will have to be repaid through toll revenue. The Canadians also pledged to reimburse Michigan for any expenses the state Department of Transportation incurs in connecting the new bridge to Interstate 75 through a new international plaza.

Durhal’s complaint contends Snyder has violated constitutional separation of powers and committed the state to eventually paying for the bridge without approval of the Legislature, which controls the purse strings of state government.

“The governor has circumvented the Michigan constitution in order to achieve through the side door what he couldn’t through the front door,” Durhal said Friday.

“Because he couldn’t get the votes he needed in the Senate to get it done, he’s going around the Legislature to create this agreement that the Legislature has no input whatsoever in.”

Snyder has said he had authority to enter into the agreement without the Legislature’s permission under the Urban Cooperation Act and state constitution.

“The Legislature was clear that it didn’t want to take up the issue, and that’s fine,” Snyder spokesman Ken Silfven said. “We respect the fact that (the Legislature) has a full plate of other issues to deal with.”

The Snyder administration is waiting for a presidential permit from the federal government before construction of the New International Trade Crossing can begin.

Durhal, who is running for mayor of Detroit, denied Friday he filed the lawsuit to draw attention to his campaign. “This is not for political reasons,” he said.

Durhal’s lawyer, Godfrey Dillard, has worked for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who has waged a multi-million dollar political campaign to stop construction of a crossing that would compete for truck traffic with his 86-year-old bridge.

Durhal denied he’s suing Snyder at the behest of the billionaire trucking mogul.