By Dave Battagello
Owners of the Ambassador Bridge should know within a week or two whether their latest courtroom attempt to stop construction of the planned $1-billion Detroit River bridge will be successful.
The bridge company is seeking an injunction in U.S. District Court to stop the U.S. Coast Guard from granting a permit for the Detroit River International Crossing project.
Owner Matty Moroun was in attendance for the hearing Wednesday in Washington while his son Matthew testified: “this is the end of the race” for his company to stop the DRIC bridge, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“If they can get all their approvals — and this is the final one — before we do, they’ve won.”
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer indicated she will hand down her ruling within days, according to the Free Press.
The Coast Guard permit is largely related to navigational purposes, whether shipping lanes are impeded or there would be wildlife impacts. It is a lesser permit compared to the U.S. Presidential permit and Canadian federal government cabinet approval which have already been granted to the DRIC project.
The bridge company has asked the court for the injunction and to put a stop construction of the looming competing crossing until all Moroun court challenges against the DRIC project are finalized.
Among ongoing court actions by the Morouns against DRIC are a NAFTA challenge, federal lawsuits on both sides of the border and state challenge in Michigan.
The implication should Collyer grant the injunction on that basis is the downriver crossing project – which will link the industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray – could be delayed for years.
Lawyers for the bridge company argued the Coast Guard has been treating the Morouns unfairly since they have been shut out from securing their own permit from the same federal agency for their proposed twin span.
Final approval of a Coast Guard permit for the Ambassador Bridge expansion proposal has been on hold after it was learned the company does not have all the property it requires in Detroit – namely city-owned Riverside Park – in order to start construction.
City officials in Detroit have largely favoured construction of the DRIC bridge and so far refused to sell Riverside Park to the Morouns.
The Canadian government has been anxious to launch bridge construction. It has already budgeted $630 million this year to start property acquisition in Detroit and utility relocation.
An official with Transport Canada did not wish to comment on Moroun’s court challenge in Washington.
“It’s a matter before the courts, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment,” said spokesman Mark Butler.
Ottawa has also agreed to pay the state of Michigan’s share for the project of $550 million. Along with a private partner, Canada is essentially paying full costs for the bridge and feeder roads under for the DRIC project. The federal government expects to recoup its investment through tolls.
The overall cost is estimated to be over $2 billion – with expectations Washington will fund the U.S. customs plaza in Detroit.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has so far not budgeted the required $250 million for the customs plaza – another holdup before construction can start.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is coming to Detroit on Friday to tour local border facilities and participate in a roundtable discussion on U.S- Canada border infrastructure.
Originally posted in the Windsor Star