Battling a Giant

Gregg vs. Goliath

For years, a small truck ferry owner has been hauling hazardous materials across the Detroit River and battling Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. But if he wins, he will probably put himself out of business.

BY JACK LESSENBERRY // PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACOB LEWKOW 

Published: January 31, 2017 

FERRY OWNER GREGG WARD TAKES AN INTERNATIONAL VIEW OF THE DETROIT-WINDSOR BORDER.

Today, if the ice isn’t too thick, a few trucks that carry hazardous materials or are just too big for the Ambassador Bridge will squeeze themselves onto a 45-year-old ferry, the Lac St. Jean, at a hard-to-find dock a couple miles south of downtown.

When the trucks are aboard, Capt. David Seymour will fire up the engines of the Stormont, a battered, old Canadian tugboat, and chug off across the Detroit River, collect a few more vehicles, chat with the customs folks, and then chug on back.

The Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry might, on a good day, haul 50 trucks across the water. That compares to, oh, 8-10,000 or so trucks that roll across the Ambassador Bridge every day.

There’s very little comparison — or love lost — between the men behind each operation. 

The Ambassador Bridge is owned by Matty Moroun, 89, one of the richest people in Michigan.

The bridge itself was completed in 1929, just as the greatest depression in American history was settling in.

Moroun managed to outmaneuver legendary investor Warren Buffett and gain complete control of the bridge in 1979.

He also owns a vast trucking empire, CenTra, plus the hulking ruin of the Michigan Central Station, and vast swatches of what are often called slum properties around both his bridge and what will be the new Gordie Howe International Bridge, the creation of which Moroun has fought ferociously for years.

Forbes magazine has rated Moroun’s net worth at around $1.6 billion. 

The Detroit Windsor-Truck Ferry was started on April 22, 1990, — Earth Day — by Gregg Ward and his father, John.

The date was appropriate. The Ambassador Bridge isn’t certified as safe for hazardous materials. These days, the elder Ward has been ailing, and his son has been running the business.

Gregg Ward is outwardly cheerful and warm, and looks a decade younger than his 55 years. But his life is anything but easy. Instead of a mansion in Grosse Pointe Shores, he has a nice but modest home in Dearborn. A divorced father of two, he doesn’t often see his daughter Emily, who is in college in Europe. (His former wife moved back to her native Iceland.) His life revolves around caring for his 20-year-old autistic son, Michael, to whom he is totally dedicated.

It would be safe to say that those who compile the Forbes list of the richest Americans have never heard of Gregg Ward.

“You know, we started this thinking it would be a part-time job, and it became our lives,” he tells me over lunch at Johnny Noodle King in southwest Detroit, not far from his ferry.

For him, in many ways, this business is ideal, since it allows him the flexibility to take care of his son. But there’s a cloud on the horizon; once the Gordie Howe bridge is open to traffic, Ward expects it will put him out of business.

“The new bridge should be safe for hazardous materials,” he says, as well as being large enough to carry the huge windmill pylons that now use his ferry service.

That means the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry will no longer be able to compete. 

You might think that would make Ward as determined as Moroun to stop the new bridge.

But you’d be totally wrong.

For more than a decade, long before Rick Snyder ever thought of running for governor, Ward has fought for a new bridge.

He does that, to be sure, because he doesn’t like how Moroun does business or treats people.

His stories about the billionaire could fill a book, and would undoubtedly invite lawsuits from Moroun, whose love of litigation is legendary. 

“What some might get out of a night with Marilyn Monroe, Matty gets out of suing people,” former Gov. James Blanchard, who had worked both for and against Moroun as a lobbyist, once told me.

But most of all, Ward thinks a new bridge is essential for this region’s survival. “If it didn’t happen and something happened to put the old bridge out of commission, this region would be so euchered …” he says.

He shakes his head. “I don’t know why the business leaders, the automotive companies especially, aren’t calling more loudly for the bridge to be built.”

What’s not in dispute is this: Around half a billion dollars in goods, mainly heavy auto components, trundle across the Ambassador every day. Unfortunately the bridge is not only wearing out, showering concrete onto a Windsor neighborhood last year, but it’s also in the wrong place for traffic patterns. Trucks crossing into Canada have a dozen lights to get through before they get to Highway 401.

That’s starkly inefficient, which is why at peak times, you can see traffic backed up onto I-75. That won’t happen with the Gordie Howe; the Canadians have built carefully landscaped access roads to whisk traffic on to their freeway system.

But progess lags on the Michigan side, around Delray, the area where the bridge would be anchored. 

Ward is worried. “Delay, delay, delay,” he says.

He’s also suspicious that Mayor Mike Duggan is dragging his heels on transferring jurisdiction over roadways and easements, so that work on things like electrical connections can start.

“I worry that he is doing a deal with Moroun,” Ward says. 

The Ambassador Bridge owner has long argued that he should be allowed to build a new bridge at his own expense, next to his old one.

But that would make no sense from either an environmental or traffic point of view. 

A spokesman for the mayor denied any deal: “We continue to support the Gordie Howe bridge, and we are committed to ensuring that the needs of those who live in the community are addressed,” says Jed Howbert, executive director of the mayor’s Jobs & Economy Team (JET).

But Ward isn’t too sure.

Moroun’s idea of “twinning” his current bridge seems to be an obsession, but probably also a fantasy. Higher-up Canadian officials have told me they will never allow that.

Ottawa is so committed to the Gordie Howe bridge, Canada is even going to pick up Michigan’s half-billion dollar share of the tab, money Canada will supposedly be repaid someday out of the tolls.

But Moroun’s fantasy is a rich one. 

“Every year of delay is that much more in profits for the Morouns,” Ward says, and that much more lost to businesses on both sides of the border. 

Ward, who grew up in Indiana and moved to Michigan at 17, has always seen things in terms of an international focus. After earning a BA in international studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, he went to the Université Laval in Quebec to be certified as fluent in French, before earning an MBA in finance from Michigan State University.

He’s been a business consultant and adviser for a dozen countries, including the Baltic States and Romania, but sees the U.S.-Canada relationship as key to our economic future.

Ward does think the Gordie Howe bridge will eventually happen; his guess is that it might be ready for traffic by 2022.

What he will do then is a good question. But he is almost universally regarded as an honest and caring person.

And nobody knows bridge issues like he does. 

“Gregg has an exhaustive knowledge of the subject,” longtime investigative reporter Joel Thurtell has noted. “Those of us who have written about the proposed new bridge owe Gregg Ward a huge debt for maintaining what amounts to a digital news service that keeps us up to date.”

Ward’s also politically and economically savvy. But when I ask whether he might ever consider a career in politics, he laughs. 

“How can you compromise on the most basic things? I can’t see myself going up to the worst sons of bitches and shake hands and acting like everything is fine,” he says. 

I decided I didn’t need to ask who he meant. 

http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/February-2017/Gregg-vs-Goliath/

Trump could light a fire to move the Gordie Howe Bridge project forward

A bridge not far enough? Repairing roads and bridges comes with pros and cons

By Kathy Hoekstra – Watchdog.org – – Monday, January 9, 2017

A few months ago, a Detroit Free Press headline asked, “Will the Gordie Howe bridgeever get built?”

It’s a fair question for the $2 billion, publicly funded project launched more than a decade ago to relieve growing congestion on the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Planners say construction could begin as soon as mid-2018.

If that’s not soon enough, how about this year? Or this spring?

A transition team adviser for President-electDonald Trump tells Watchdog.org that all it would take is “just a phone call from Trump.”

Norman F. Anderson is president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure and an adviser to the Trump “infrastructure task force.” That group is charged with prioritizing and coordinating the president-elect’s ambitious $1 trillion infrastructure program — that is, $137 billion in tax incentives used to lure the remainder from private investment.

Mr. Anderson said the task force already has identified 68 projects across the country that could begin this year — although he did avoid the term “shovel-ready” — for a total investment of $262 billion and the potential for 700,000 jobs.

The bridge would bear the name of the Red Wings immortal near the top of the list. Other examples provided to Watchdog.org are the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project, Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail, the Southwest Pass dredging project south of New Orleans, the Yakima River basin water pumping station and Veterans Affairs hospital construction.

Whom would Mr. Trump call to push the Gordie Howe International Bridge to the starting line?

Many who have followed the bridge saga would likely agree on billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun. He and his family own the 87-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which charges $5 for cars in the U.S. to cross. He has raised some of the biggest roadblocks to a publicly funded bridge that would compete with his family’s $60-million-per-year enterprise.

The latest gambit is a lawsuit claiming Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is doing an illegal end run around the Legislature to get the bridge built.

Mr. Anderson demurred on the phone call speculation, saying the 2017 projects compiled by the task force all have the same unmistakable impediment to progress.

“All are projects that would be ready to go, simply lack the final approval, permit or push,” he said. “The point is that there are projects, many of them across all sectors, tied up in the soon-to-be former administration’s lack of leadership, willingness to take risks, and indecisiveness. And that’s not a political point. It’s just a fact.”

Mr. Anderson also chided the Obama administration for not having the right infrastructure professionals at the table, which led to misplaced spending.

“The failure of the Obama people to identify good projects and invest in those projects doesn’t logically mean there aren’t good projects; it just means that they sucked at it — radically underestimating the complexity, setting mediocre people to the task of execution and not following through,” Mr. Anderson said.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the free-market-oriented Mercatus Center, is equally critical of President Obama’s infrastructure efforts, especially his signature American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the $800 billion stimulus package that kicked off his administration.

A 2011 Mercatus paper that Ms. de Rugy co-wrote, “Would More Infrastructure Spending Stimulate the Economy?” challenged the notion that a quick infusion of government money for infrastructure projects instantly creates shovel-ready jobs and jump-starts economic growth.

“President Obama had roughly $47 billion in direct infrastructure spending, and the idea was to invest it into ‘shovel-ready’ projects. And it would take the place of the private sector during the recession,” she explained to Watchdog.org. “And once the economy picked up, the private sector would then come back.”

The federal government’s final report in 2014 shows that $30 billion of that money went to transportation infrastructure, while the bulk of the rest went toward shoring up state and local governments and sudden paperwork-laden grant programs.

“President Obama himself had to acknowledge that there are just not that many ‘shovel-ready’ projects,” Ms. de Rugy said.

Ms. de Rugy said that even though Mr. Trumpaims to encourage more private investment through tax incentives, the plan likely will go down the same unsuccessful path. It’s not the mix of government and private spending, she said. It’s which projects are chosen and why, often a choice based on politics and popularity rather than merit.

A project as high-profile as the Gordie Howe Bridge is a no-brainer for investors, who can expect ribbon-cuttings, outsized press coverage and perhaps a cut of revenue. After all, the Ambassador Bridge pulls in $60 million per year.

But how eager are investors to fix crumbling highways in Detroit that get motorists to the bridge?

“One of the things we may actually need is maintenance. But I don’t think that’s what [Mr. Trump is] going to have in mind — to just do maintenance. It’s not that lucrative for the private sector,” she said. “So I think they’re going to find that the administration’s grand idea is going to be a whole lot of misallocation of capital or that there’s no amount of tax credit that can actually attract the private sector to do some of the stuff that would be useful to do.”

Another pitfall the incoming administration needs to avoid, Ms. de Rugy said, is considering government infrastructure spending a “jobs” program. It is a popular notion, especially among Democrats looking to recapture the votes of American workers who have defected to Mr. Trump.

“If we need to build infrastructure, try to get the highest quality for the lowest price and try to ignore the ‘economic impact’ or the ‘jobs impact,’” she said. “That’s not your reason to do it. It’s because you need it.”

Mr. Anderson blames infrastructure sluggishness on a market shackled by regulations, the “incompetent, slow and sleazy execution of studies” that cause endless delays, and leadership unwilling to challenge the regulatory status quo or revitalize the public sector.

Ms. de Rugy and Mr. Anderson agree, however, that time is of the essence.

“The infrastructure is a very, very bad tool to try to stimulate the economy in the short term,” Ms. de Rugy said. “It has to happen fast. And that’s actually really just hard to put in place.”

The ever-optimistic Trump team thinks not.

Here is a Shocker!

Ambassador Bridge owners sue Snyder, state over new bridge

By TRACY SAMILTON • 29 MINUTES AGO

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit are suing Governor Snyder and the Michigan Department of Transportation over the proposed new Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Former Attorney General Mike Cox is representing the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit claims only the state legislature is authorized to approve a new international bridge, and since the legislature didn’t do so, the agreement between the Snyder administration and Canada (which is paying the entire cost) is illegal.

A spokeswoman for the governor says, “We disagree, and we are proceeding as planned.”

The lawsuit is the latest in a long string of efforts by the Moroun family to stop the new bridge, including a failed statewide ballot proposal in 2012 that voters rejected by a wide margin.

The new bridge is expected to compete with the aging Ambassador Bridge and siphon a significant portion of its customs revenue.  The lawsuit says the Ambassador Bridge will be forced to close as a result.

The Moroun enterprise has attempted to forestall the new bridge by pledging to build a new span, next to the existing Ambassador Bridge span.  The pledge received support from Republican leaders in the Michigan legislature, but not from Governor Snyder and MDOT, who said it was a terrorism risk to have two spans next to each other.

But the Morouns’ plan is also vehemently opposed by most people who live in Windsor, because it would dump even more traffic onto already congested roads in the city. The Morouns are also despised by some residents because they purchased properties in some neighborhoods near the site of the proposed second span and allowed them to fall into disrepair.

The bridge couldn’t be built without permits from the city, from the province of Ontario, and from Canada, and that appears highly unlikely.

http://michiganradio.org/post/ambassador-bridge-owners-sue-snyder-state-over-new-bridge

Check out the Video story of the New Bridge and the Delray community

The Bridge Comes to Delray

Detroit’s downtrodden Delray neighborhood has been waiting for the new bridge to Canada for well over a decade. The bridge means hundreds of families will be relocated.

Plans for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) started in earnest in 2004, a way to speed traffic to and from Canada, especially trucks, providing another way across the border than the Ambassador Bridge, built in the 1920s.

Artist conception courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation

Artist conception of the DRIC courtesy Michigan Department of Transportation

Artist conception of the DRIC courtesy Michigan Department of TransportationDelray seemed to be the best choice for the bridge to land. Many people have already left and a lot of vacant property had already been acquired by the city. Trouble was, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel “Matty” Maroun, kept fighting the DRIC with legal challenges, even funding and losing a statewide ballot proposal to stop the DRIC.

Meanwhile, both Governors Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and Rick Snyder, a Republican, led the charge for the new bridge despite opposition from his own party. There was talk the bridge might be open in 2016. That possibility has long passed. The residents of Delray suffered, not knowing when or if or when they’d have to leave and if they’d be properly compensated. Then there are the residents who’ll still be there to see all the construction and truck traffic coming their way.Last year, 2015, brought signs the project was moving ahead. The DRIC was rechristened the Gordie Howe International Crossing. More community meetings were held but the buyout offers for the hundreds of residents came slowly.

Now its December 2016, with clear signs the bridge is really coming. The Michigan Department of Transportation is moving fast, buying more homes. More people are relocating. About half the affected residents have struck deals to sell so far but it’s estimated about half of them are leaving Detroit. They can’t afford the city anymore as home prices keep rising.

MDOT expects to have all its property buyout offers for residents and businesses by the end of the year. It’s expected the state will have to take some properties by eminent domain. Barring any more delays, this bridge may open in five years, maybe sometime in 2022.

Detroit Public Television, through the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, looks into the lives of some Delray residents with the bridge coming in.

Bridge Authority Has a New Chairman

http://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/duncan-named-permanent-chairman-of-bridge-authority-board

Bridge RFP Process is in Full Swing

http://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/big-names-europe-and-ame7ricas-run7ning-21bn-u7s/

Work under way on Ontario’s Herb Gray Parkway (Creative Commons)

Big names from Europe and the Americas in running for $2.1bn US-Canada bridge

14 November 2016 | By GCR Staff 0 Comments

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority announced last week that three consortiums have been formally requested to bid for the job of designing, building and operating the Gordie Howe International Bridge over the Detroit River.

The $2.1bn bridge, which may be cable-stayed or suspended, will take over from the Ambassador bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, which presently carries about 2.5 million cargo trucks a year, around 30% of all lorry traffic between the US and Canada.

The shortlisted teams are:

  • Bridging North America, which contains 14 companies. This is led by the Canadian arm of Spanish giant ACS and its Dragados and Turner Construction subsidiaries. It also includes Fluor Canada, Canadian contractor Aecon and US engineer Aecom; design is by Toronto architect Moriyama & Teshima and New York-based Smith-Miller + Hawkinson.
  • Legacy Link Partners. This is led by Canadian engineer SNC-Lavalin and Vinci with finance from public–private partnership specialist John Laing Investments. The consulting engineer is Nebraskan firm HDR, and the architect will be Berlin-based Leonhardt, Andrä and Partners if the bridge is cable-stayed and Aas-Jakobsen of Oslo if a suspended deck is chosen.
  • The third team is CanAm Gateway Partners, led by Bechtel with design and engineering by a joint venture between UK companies Arup and Mott McDonald Design, together with Denmark’ NORR Associates and Bergmann Associates, which is based in Rochester, New York.

The crossing will connect Interstates 75 and 94 in Michigan with the newly built Herb Gray Parkway connection in Ontario. This will allow faster traffic flow than the current configuration, which connects to city streets on the Canadian side.

The bridge was first proposed by Canadian authorities in 2004, but was opposed by Detroit businessman Manuel Moroun, who owns the Ambassador.

A Canadian federal Crown corporation, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, was established in 2012 to handle the procurement process. The project was approved by the US government in April 2013. The following month, the Canadian government allocated $25m to begin land acquisition on the Detroit side.

The authority said in early 2015 that it hoped to issue the request for proposals at the end of that year, but this was delayed by the need to assemble the site on the American side.

Construction Dive website reports that one issue was the need to acquire a 42-acre plot of land owned by Mr Mouron using eminent domain powers. All in all, the state will pay $370m for some 30 packets of land.

Andy Doctoroff, special project adviser to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, said in a statement: “It is great news because it demonstrates that the Gordie Howe International Bridge project is moving full steam ahead, and it reflects the fantastic working relationship that Michigan has with Canada and all of its project partners.”

Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s minister of infrastructure and communities, said: “The Gordie Howe International Bridge is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in North America because of its vital role in maintaining and growing Canada’s most important trade relationship and closest partnership.”

The bridge will be named after Saskatchewan ice hockey player Gordie Howe, who was best known for his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings.

Image: Work under way on Ontario’s Herb Gray Parkway (Creative Commons)

Delray residents near new bridge looking for a buyout

Jarvis: Detroit residents near new border bridge look to Canada for help

Jarvis: Detroit residents near new border bridge look to Canada for help

Cedric Jones stands in front of his home in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, on  Nov. 3, 2016.
Cedric Jones stands in front of his home in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

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DETROIT — Beulah Jones was the first black teacher in Roseville, a suburb of Detroit. She worked all her life.

She didn’t drink, smoke or curse. She went to church until she wasn’t able to.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mother,” said her son, Cedric.

Yet Beulah spent the last 10 years of her life, until she died Aug. 31 at age 83, fighting for decency and respect from the people building the Gordie Howe International Bridge that will link Windsor and Detroit.

When the mostly black, Latino and low-income residents who live next to where the bridge is planned hear about the amenities on the Canadian side, they see a difference. And they don’t think it’s fair. They believe that Canada, which is leading the project, should also protect its foreign neighbours.

“We have this international project straddling these two communities, and when it lands on this side, it doesn’t have the protections that it has when it lands on the other side,” said Simone Sagovac of the community advisory group established by Detroit’s city council to advocate for residents. “We are looking for Canada to be leading in a way that will be fair on both sides of the border.”

Cedric Jones, of the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, on Nov. 3, 2016 holds a copy of minutes from a meeting at which he says he was promised his house and his mother's home would be purchased to make way for the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Cedric Jones, of the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, on Nov. 3, 2016 holds a copy of minutes from a meeting at which he says he was promised his house and his mother’s home would be purchased to make way for the Gordie Howe International Bridge. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

What Beulah Jones faced defies belief. She lived on South Harrington Street, off West Jefferson Avenue. Her neighbours across the street, including her son and caregiver Cedric, were bought out. So was everyone on her side, up to her block. The land at the other end of her block is also part of the project.

That left Beulah and one neighbour, Vietnam War veteran Elmer Johnson, on a sliver of land.

Theirs were among about 50 houses in small, isolated clusters left dotting the boundaries of the planned truck plaza south of I-75 — the busy interstate highway that will connect to the new bridge.

Beulah had lived in her house for more than 60 years. She didn’t want to move. But she didn’t want to be left all alone.

“In a multibillion-dollar project, they’re nickel-and-diming these people whose lives are so impacted,” said advisory group member Gregg Ward.

“Have some morals,” Cedric said. “I don’t know no politicians, no higher-ups who would allow their mothers to live under those circumstances. If it’s not good enough for your mother, why is it good enough for my mother?”

Beulah spent her days calling the advisory group, the city, the state. Some people believe the stress hastened her passing.

“It made her have to worry about something she shouldn’t have had to worry about,” said Cedric.

Longtime Delray residents Albert and Myrtle Green talk talk about the impact of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project Nov. 3, 2016.
Longtime Delray residents Albert and Myrtle Green talk talk about the impact of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Albert and Myrtle Green live several streets west, on Crossley Street. They bought their house in 1948. It was an industrial neighbourhood, but it was vibrant — Hungarians, Armenians, Italians and lots of kids. There was a house on every lot, schools and stores. The Greens ran a nearby variety store and lunch counter for 56 years.

The announcement of the bridge quickened the neighbourhood’s decline, said their daughter, Debra Williams, another member of the advisory group. People who could afford to move left. Landlords stopped repairing their buildings. Scrappers picked apart the remains. There was illegal dumping.

Now, the Greens’ house, with their garden of petunias and marigolds, is one of only two occupied houses on the block. They’re 89 now, married almost 70 years.

They’re five blocks away from the plaza. Still, “with my age and the surroundings,” Myrtle said quietly, her walker next to her chair, “I would like a buyout.”

She’s worried about more pollution, noise and isolation.

“I don’t think I could sell because nobody wants this,” she said.

“They worked hard to build the business,” said Williams. “They worked hard on their home. They pay their taxes. They’re good citizens. The time they have left, they should have a good quality of life and I don’t think that’s asking a lot.”

Debra Williams stands in front of her childhood home in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray on Nov. 3, 2016. Her parents still live there.
Debra Williams stands in front of her childhood home in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray on Nov. 3, 2016. Her parents still live there. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Albert and Myrtle Green's former store is now closed in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray as shown on Nov. 3, 2016.
Albert and Myrtle Green’s former store is now closed in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray as shown on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

The north side of I-75 is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Detroit. There are more children than in any other part of the city. They’re more than 70 per cent Latino and largely low-income. The ramps to and from the bridge and interstate will rise about 30 feet in the air — within about 100 feet of some homes. On the south side, traffic will exit I-75 and almost T-bone an apartment building before turning to go around it.

There will be noise walls between the service roads and interstate but nothing to protect all those families from the diesel particulate and noise from the steady stream of trucks on the ramps.

“It may be a small number of people, but they will experience a dramatic change in their lives,” said Sagovac.

The advisory group is calling for a minimum 300-foot buffer between the entire project and the houses. It cites studies showing that high levels of particulate from vehicles settle in areas within 300–1,500 feet of major highways, causing higher rates of heart disease, cancer, asthma and premature and low birth weight babies.

Particulate is the most harmful type of pollution, and it’s most dangerous within 300 feet of a major road. That’s where the smallest particles, which are carried deepest into the body, are concentrated. Children face the most risk, according to studies cited by the advisory group, because they breathe more air relative to their body weight than adults, are more active and are outside more.

Homes in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray are shown on Nov. 3, 2016.
Homes in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray are shown on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Michigan can’t buy out more homes because there is no money in the state’s budget for the bridge. That’s why Canada is fronting the initial cost. The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, the Canadian Crown corporation building the bridge, is responsible for funding property acquisition only within the right-of-way, spokesperson Heather Grondin said in an email.

So Michigan state Rep. Stephanie Chang asked Infrastructure Canada for money for more buyouts. The answer was no.

“I understand their reason why,” said Chang. “They’re Michigan’s properties, and they’re not responsible for outside the footprint.”

She and others also understand that the neighbourhoods on the American side faced more challenges than those on the Canadian side before this project, and that Windsor fought long and hard to get the amenities along the Herb Gray Parkway that leads to the bridge site.

Still, she said, “the general idea of protecting people’s health, protecting people’s quality of life needs to be a priority on both sides.

“Obviously,” she said, “Canada plays a very large role because the funding is entirely from the Canadian side. I would say to Canadians and Americans with any giant development project that is going to have enormous consequences and bring a lot of economic benefits to both countries, we need to make sure the host communities on both sides are treated in a way that really protects their quality of life and makes sure people are reaping economic benefits.”

A sign marks a recently purchased piece of property in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on Nov. 3, 2016.
A sign marks a recently purchased piece of property in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

The former Detroit River International Crossing study recognized that the new bridge would have a “disproportionately high and adverse effect on minority and low-income population groups.” But the impact will be “fully addressed,” said Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeff Cranson. There are “rigorous” guidelines for reducing noise, monitoring emissions, buffers and aesthetics. The final details will be determined after the builder is chosen, but “we have listened to the community and are confident that mitigation measures … will adequately address the community’s concerns,” Cranson said.

The bridge authority is also meeting with groups on both sides of the border and is committed to a crossing that is “respectful to neighbouring residents and businesses in Canada and the U.S., Grondin said.

Related

The Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS), an anchor in the neighbourhood for 40 years, is just south of I-75. Most of its patients are women and children, most without health insurance. Most live on the other side of the interstate and don’t have cars. They walk along Junction Street over the highway to get to the centre. But Junction will close to accommodate the ramps connecting I-75 to the bridge’s truck plaza.

Denise Pike, development director for the Community Health and Social Services Center in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, is shown at the centre on Nov. 3, 2016.
Denise Pike, development director for the Community Health and Social Services Center in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, is shown at the centre on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

A new pedestrian crossing will be built at Morrell Street 300 yards away. The state promises it will be wider, well-lit and maintained all year. Still, CHASS patients will have to traverse eight to 10 lanes of traffic. They’ll have to cross service roads on either side. They’ll land on the south side by a truck stop known for prostitutes. Some of them will do this pushing baby strollers.

“That would make me afraid,” said CHASS development director Denise Pike.

The bridge authority said it would consider putting stop signs or lights on the service roads, but their engineers told the centre it must request this in writing, Pike said.

“They’re designing the project,” she said. “They should make sure they’re not cutting businesses off from their customers. This has been made clear several times. It’s not as if (Michigan’s transporation department) and the (bridge authority) are not aware of it.”

Pike suggested that the project pay for transportation for some patients or extend the pedestian crossing across both service roads, but has the impression the state and the bridge authority won’t consider it.

An abandoned home is shown in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on Nov. 3, 2016.
An abandoned home is shown in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

A destroyed home is shown in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on Nov. 3, 2016.
A destroyed home is shown in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

The offers being made for land needed for the bridge are also being questioned. On the Canadian side, Heritage Park Alliance Church in LaSalle received $17.9 million for its 15 acres when the parkway was built. The former Hellenic Banquet Hall in Tecumseh got $14 million for its 12 acres — like winning the lottery, its president said at the time.

Meanwhile, First Latin American Baptist Church in Detroit was offered US$411,000 for its smaller property.

“Canada’s approach to community benefits has been praised as an example to follow,” Pastor Kevin Casillas said in an email. “It would be a peculiar legacy for those overseeing the international project … to have millions of dollars to relocate churches (and) businesses on one side of the border, including $17.9 million for one church and funding to protect the eastern fox snake and Butler’s garter snake, but for some reason on the other side of the border, Latino and African American residents, businesses and churches end up receiving proportionately much less.”

Some Americans call this Canada’s bridge. It’s not fair to put everything on Canada, said Ward, who operates the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry. Users, not governments, will pay for most of the crossing through tolls.

But the people who will pay the most, potentially sacrificing their quality of life, will be those like the Greens and the women and children at CHASS, who live near it, he said.

And they’re expecting Canada, the country known for decency, the country leading the project and fronting initial costs, to take care of them.

“It’s embarrassing to say but I believe from my experience of 28 years at the border that Canada will take better care of residents than the U.S.,” Ward said.

“Protecting these people — it’s just right,” he said.

ajarvis@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/winstarjarvis

Elmer Johnson sits in front of his home in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, on Nov. 3, 2016.
Elmer Johnson sits in front of his home in the Detroit neighbourhood of Delray, near the site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, on Nov. 3, 2016. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star