A ruling by the Sixth Circuit may help clear the final hurdle before a public-private partnership (P3) bridge project across the Detroit River can proceed.
A three-judge panel upheld the Federal Highway Administration’s 2009 decision to select Delray as the preferred site for the Detroit River International Crossing project, which is called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) currently, according to legal news provider Law360. The court rejected several community groups’ challenge to the environmental review process leading up to Delray’s selection.
The community groups, along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., sued Federal Highway Administration in 2010 for its approval of Delray, a neighborhood in south-west Detroit, local media reports said.
This was not the only legal battle that the cross-border bridge project has endured since its inception in 2004 – a billionaire that owns a competing bridge, the Ambassador Bridge, is the most vocal opponent of the NITC project.
During the state-wide ballot in Michigan in 2012, billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun initiated a constitutional amendment, Proposal 6, through his Detroit International Bridge Co. to delay or block the NITC, stating that the new bridge would compete for traffic with the company’s own bridge, the Ambassador Bridge, according to the website of the Michigan Secretary of State.
Moroun instead proposed building another bridge next to the Ambassador Bridge, instead of the NITC.
Proposal 6 was defeated during the ballot, and the Canadian Minister of Transport called the defeat “good news for travelers, workers and industry on both sides of the border,” according to a statement from the minister’s office at the time. If enacted, it would have required voters to approve any new bridge or tunnel from Michigan to Canada.
The NITC project is being jointly developed by the Canadian government and the US state of Michigan as one point of entry is located in Michigan, while the other is in Windsor, Ontario. It will be co-owned by Michigan and Canada, and once financiers have fully recouped their investment from tolls, Michigan and Canada will enjoy an equal share of toll revenues.
According to Transport Canada, the Windsor-Detroit corridor is Canada’s most important trade artery and the busiest commercial land border crossing in North America, handling 28 percent of Canada-US trade. Canada has already committed C$631 million to the project.
The Michigan Department of Transportation initiated the project a decade ago, and it has received regulatory and governmental approvals along the years. In April last year, the US State Department issued a Presidential permit to Michigan for the construction of the NITC. Moroun has reportedly filed a lawsuit attempting to block the issuance of this permit, claiming that the Presidential permit process is unconstitutional.