Moroun says he still wants to build a new bridge in the same location with the same old problems

Ambassador Bridge owner says it has environmental OK from Canada for new span

By Chad Livengood

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s company says it has won a favorable Canadian environmental assessment to build a six-lane bridge alongside his 85-year-old span.

Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. announced Thursday it had secured the crucial environmental clearance needed to build “a new twin span” across the Detroit River.

The company still needs a navigable waters permit from U.S. and Canadian authorities before it can begin construction on a $400 million bridge, company president Dan Stamper said Thursday.

Moroun has long vowed to build a second Detroit-to-Windsor crossing, but has been at odds with the Canadians for years as they have worked to build a publicly owned bridge downriver that would compete with the Ambassador for lucrative truck traffic at the international crossing.

However, Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general to Michigan, took issue with the way the DIBC characterized its Canadian environmental assessment as approval to operate two bridges at the border.

“There’s been no environmental approval for a twin span,” Norton told The Detroit News. “They sought environmental approval for a replacement span.”

Stamper said the company’s intentions have been clear for years, spelled out in documentation sent to the Canadian government.

“We’ve been saying all the way along that we want to build a new twin span tied into our existing plazas, shut down the old bridge and have it renovated for redundancy,” Stamper told The News. “We now have confirmation on both sides of the border that our environmental clearance is not going to be a problem.”

Moroun’s company insisted it’s going forward with its new bridge just days after the Canadian government said it would spend $470 million over the next two years buying land and designing its planned six-lane New International Trade Crossing bridge from south Windsor to southwest Detroit.

One hurdle in the Canadians’ plans is they need the U.S. Congress to appropriate about $200 million to build a customs plaza on the Michigan side of the NITC.

The Canadians plan to spend $2.1 billion on the project when ramps and highway connections are included.

Stamper said the DIBC could build a bridge for far less because the company has existing highway interchanges, ramps and plazas on both sides of the border.

“I know there’s a lot of folks who say if you don’t do the NITC you don’t get a new bridge — and that’s just not true,” Stamper said. “This isn’t a hollow promise.”

Norton said the bridge company has to apply for other permits before it could begin construction and would have to comply with Canada’s laws governing bridges and tunnels.

“It’s all moot until they can get over to their insistence that they’re not subject to the bridges and tunnels act,” Norton said.

Norton said the Canadian environmental approval of Moroun’s plans shows his country isn’t trying to put the billionaire out of business.

“Anybody thinks that we’re anti-Ambassador Bridge and anti-Moroun, here’s the evidence that that’s not the case,” Norton said.

Originally posted in the Detroit News