A bridge too far

When you own a strategically vital bridge, what’s the last thing you want to happen? Probably someone coming along and building a new bridge right next to yours. And that’s precisely what has made 87 year-old Manuel “Matty” Moroun an unhappy man.

Billionaire Moroun is the owner of Detroit International Bridge Co., which in turn owns the Ambassador Bridge connecting the city of Detroit in the US with Windsor, Ontario in Canada.

Its status as the busiest international border crossing in North America in terms of trade volume has been in danger ever since a competing bridge was proposed to be built over the Detroit River.

The Michigan Department of Transportation initiated the Detroit River International Crossing project, now called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), a decade ago – and has received various regulatory and governmental approvals along the years.

Moroun has tried numerous times to block the NITC from happening for one obvious reason – his Ambassador Bridge will almost certainly suffer financially if the NITC gets up and running.

For example, his company, along with several community groups, sued the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) in 2010 for its approval of Delray as the preferred US site for NITC. Delray is a neighborhood in south-west Detroit.

In June, a three-judge panel upheld the FHA’s decision for the selection of Delray, and rejected the community groups’ challenge to the environmental review process leading up to the selection.

During a state-wide ballot in Michigan in 2012, the billionaire initiated a constitutional amendment, Proposal 6, to delay or block the NITC, stating that the new bridge would compete for traffic with the company’s own bridge.

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”. If enacted, it would have required voters to approve any new bridge or tunnel from Michigan to Canada.

Still, Moroun may have found another way to continue his legal endeavour. He has reportedly filed a lawsuit attempting to block an issuance of a Presidential permit, claiming that the permit process is unconstitutional.

It seems Moroun is in no mood to build bridges.