Another Shocker! Moroun Files Another Lawsuit

Ambassador Bridge owner claims Michigan is costing him toll revenue

By Gus Burns | fburns@mlive.com 

on February 21, 2017 at 1:37 PM, updated February 21, 2017 at 1:39 PM

Matty Moroun and his Detroit International Bridge Company claim the state is improperly diverting trucks hauling hazardous cargo from crossing the Ambassador Bridge and cheating the company out of millions in tolls.

The bridge company, which has been at odds with state efforts to build a competing span, the Gordie Howe International Bridge projected to be completed in 2020, claims the state is creating hazardous materials routes that prohibit truckers from crossing the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor without the authority to do so.

The claims were made in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday naming Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle as a defendant.

“MDOT’s jurisdiction is limited to state trunkline highways and does not extend to private

property,” says the lawsuit filed by the Mike Cox law firm in Livonia. “The Ambassador Bridge is privately-owned and is not a state trunkline highway.”

The bridge company is asking the court to order MDOT to end any routing related to passage of hazardous materials using the bridge.

Commercia semi crossing tolls can increase to in excess of $75 each way for wide loads and up to $6.75 per axle, based on weight, according to the bridge website.

Moroun’s company has indicated plans to build a new private bridge to run parallel to the Ambassador Bridge.

The nearly 90-year-old Ambassador Bridge would receive upgrades but only be used for emergency travel if a new span were built, planners say.

Moroun purchased Ambassador Bridge in 1979.

Read the full lawsuit:

Ambassador Bridge sues Michigan Department of Transportation by MLive.com on Scribd

http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2017/02/ambassador_bridge_owner_claims.html

TRUMP/TRUDEAU: BRIDGE A VITAL LINK

Trump, Trudeau commit to pre-clearance, Gordie Howe Bridge

Posted: Feb 14, 2017 12:33 PM | Last Updated: Feb 14, 2017 12:33 PM

TORONTO, ON – The inaugural meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resulted in a joint statement by the two leaders. And while the statement didn’t mention NAFTA, it did mention the importance of deepening the relationship between Canada and the U.S.

The statement touches on some issues pertaining to the trucking industry, namely the quick completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Detroit, which is cited as a vital economic link between the two countries.

In addition, the statement mentions the commitment to implement pre-clearance operations for cargo.

“The United States and Canada also recognize the importance of cooperation to promote economic growth, provide benefits to our consumers and businesses, and advance free and fair trade. We will continue our dialogue on regulatory issues and pursue shared regulatory outcomes that are business-friendly, reduce costs, and increase economic efficiency without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards. We will work together regarding labour mobility in various economic sectors,” an excerpt from the statement reads.

In a press conference after the two leaders met, Trump talked about the good relationship between Canada and the U.S., and when pressed about his past statements regarding NAFTA, he mentioned that “tweaks” could be made to better the situation on both sides of the border. The president also mentioned the U.S. trade relationship with Mexico is more problematic than its trade relationship than Canada.

“Together, we address security at our shared border and throughout our two countries, while expediting legitimate and vital cross-border trade and travel. We demonstrate daily that security and efficiency go hand-in-hand, and we are building a 21st century border through initiatives such as pre-clearance of people and integrated cross-border law enforcement operations,” the statement from Trump and Trudeau read.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), many Canadian business groups are pleased with the results of yesterday’s inaugural meeting between the two leaders.

“This creates a good foundation for moving forward on initiatives to jointly grow our economies in the spirit of cooperation that has defined the Canada-US relationship for over 200 years,” says David Bradley, Chief Executive Officer, adding that his 4,500 member companies will be greatly relieved by the results of yesterday’s meeting between the two leaders.

“The opportunities to deploy state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology – starting with key projects like the Gordie Howe International Bridge – to ensure that both security and trade facilitation is improved, are immense. We are encouraged by what we heard today,” says Bradley.

Ahead of the meeting between the two leaders the CTA, joined by of roughly 40 Canada-U.S. business associations, companies and policy experts, released a joint statement outlining the general principles that should be followed when managing the world’s largest security, trade, and cultural relationship.

http://www.todaystrucking.com/trump-trudeau-commit-to-pre-clearance-gordie-howe-bridge

Trump Order Not Effecting Border

Windsor-Detroit border traffic not impacted by U.S. travel ban

CTV Windsor 

Published Wednesday, February 1, 2017 4:59PM EST 

Last Updated Wednesday, February 1, 2017 6:42PM EST

It’s been four days since U.S. President Donald Trump made headlines for his travel ban for people from seven countries.

It would appear the impact, so far has yet to be felt locally, even though leaders and residents on both sides of the border continue to voice concerns about getting across borders like that of Windsor-Detroit.

People who don’t have a Canadian passport, but might be from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will not be allowed to travel into the United States for at least the next 90 days.

Steve Ondejko, president on Onfreight says he thinks it was overblown.

He says none of Onfreights loads have been stopped or even delayed in clearing the Windsor-Detroit border this week.

Officials at both the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and Ambassador Bridge report no impact on traffic.

“It’s unclear as to what the actual restrictions are going to place on our industry in particular,” says Ondejko.

Ondejko admits however, all of his 100 drivers have Canadian passports and none are from the seven countries currently under a travel ban.

Bill Anderson chair of the Cross Border Institute says most of the trade, between Ontario and the United States goes across by truck.

Anderson says they are scrambling to collect information about what’s to come. He says even if the border has been moving efficiently and Canadian travellers aren’t delayed, they could be.

“It comes in when people are getting stopped for prolonged periods, that’s when it could start to have an impact on Canadian commuters. There’s a lot of confusion about who’s actually going to get caught up in this.

http://windsor.ctvnews.ca/mobile/windsor-detroit-border-traffic-not-impacted-by-u-s-travel-ban-1.3266950

Moroun Continues to Abuse the Legal System

State of Michigan seeking quick dismissal of latest Moroun suit

John Gallagher , Detroit Free PressPublished 10:29 a.m. ET Jan. 31, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago

The State of Michigan is seeking an expedited ruling to quash the latest attempt by businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun to delay or block construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

The dispute in the Michigan Court of Claims in Lansing stems from the attempt by the Michigan Department of Transportation to use its eminent domain powers to take some Moroun-owned land in southwest Detroit’s Delray district for the Gordie Howe Bridge project. Late last year, MDOT made what it described as a good-faith offer of $11,520,000 for the Moroun-owned land on West Jefferson Avenue in a filing in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Besides opposing that action in Wayne County, Moroun filed suit in the Court of Claims, where actions against the state are brought, seeking a ruling that Gov. Rick Snyder lacked the authority to negotiate a deal with Canada to build the bridge. As Moroun attorney Mike Cox, the former state attorney general, said when filing the Moroun action, “We say any bridge that is going to be built has to follow the law.”

In its response filed Monday, the state argued that a quick dismissal of Moroun’s Court of Claims suit was needed “to prevent Mr. Manuel Moroun from doing what he has done so often in recent years — misusing the legal process to delay the Gordie Howe International Bridge and preserve his monopoly on cross-border bridge traffic between Detroit and Windsor.”

Moroun and his family own and operate the privately held Ambassador Bridge, the venue for an enormous amount of cross-border trade and traffic. The family has fought the publicly owned Gordie Howe Bridge project tenaciously for years because the  new bridge is likely to siphon off a significant amount of trade and traffic, and the profits that come with them, from the Ambassador Bridge.

As the state’s filing Monday noted, Moroun has filed multiple lawsuits over the years in courts in Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Canada seeking to block the Gordie Howe Bridge. So far, he has lost on all major points and the bridge project is proceeding.

Recently the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority issued its request for bids to three teams of finalists vying to get the contract to build and operate the span. The authority is expected to name a winning team in 2018, followed by construction, with the new bridge opening around 2022.

Six Moroun-owned companies — Crown Enterprises, DIBDetroit, Riverview-Trenton Railroad, Central Transport, CE Detroit and the Detroit International Bridge Co. —  filed the lawsuit on Dec. 29 in Michigan Court of Claims against Snyder, MDOT and the Michigan Strategic Fund. The lawsuit argues that the state is improperly seeking to use eminent domain to take property from the companies because the state constitution gives the Legislature — not the governor — the authority to build international bridges.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.

http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2017/01/31/moroun-bridge-michigan-lawsuit/97254572/

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/

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.