Ambassador Bridge co battles on - going to Supreme Court, announces petition for popular ballot
By Peter Samuel
With state contractors using heavy concrete breakers, cranes, loaders and dump trucks at the Ambassador Bridge to demolish recent concrete work and cart away the rubble of high approach ramps for a parallel span, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) battles on, using the courts and public opinion. Lawyers for the DIBC this week lodged an appeal to the state supreme court against county and appeals court rulings that led to the state demolition of bridge company construction.
And today DIBC announced a petition drive to get a popular vote preventing state involvement in a competing bridge downriver of the Ambassador. Bridge company officials see themselves as engaged in a life and death struggle in which the state will destroy the company if not stopped.
Traffic volumes at 50,000/day are way too small at the Detroit River Michigan-Ontario border to support two private crossings (Ambassador Bridge and Detroit Windsor Tunnel) plus two state bridges (Blue Water Bridge and the proposed Downriver bridge).
A bridge company official said recently: "The state's war plan is to take sufficient of our trucks away to run us out of business quickly so they can gain a monopoly on the crossing."
The petition drive called The People Should Decide would put to voters in the election this November:
"The People should decide whether state government may construct or finance new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles. Consistent with this policy, and to shield the people from unnecessary burdens, the State shall not undertake ownership and the development of or use of State funds or resources for new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles unless first determined to be necessary and appropriate by majority vote of the people."
To get on the ballot the language first has to be approved by a state board, then the petition must get 325,000 signatures.
The company announcement today argued: "Since state taxpayers will assume the liability for any debt incurred by the building of a new international crossing, the Committee maintains that approval by the taxpayers through a full vote of the people should be required."
Matthew Moroun: "Michigan voters should determine the priorities of where the State invests resources. We believe such a decision should require the vote of the people."
The campaign to get the required signatures and pass the measure is being led by bridge company's Mickey Blashfield and Jennifer Dennis.
Suppport for the proposed new downriver bridge comes from the state governor Rick Snyder (Republican) business groups, labor unions and leftwing activists. And of course the state DOT. Most Canadian groups favor the new bridge.
Local media are 200% in support with not a single skeptical voice.
But outside there is considerable skepticism about the need for the bridge and the wisdom of all the associated debt.
The state legislature has consistently refused to endorse the project.
And the federal government will, on demand, give lip service to the downriver bridge, but grudgingly.
A cursory glance at traffic numbers is enough to raise eyebrows.
Another bridge would exaccerbate the difficulties of adequately staffing border inspection lanes, already at the root of congestion at the crossings. An extra crossing to staff would stretch even thinner and complicate the deployment of inspectors.
But the biggest problem for downriver bridge promoters is the Michigan public.
The last opinion survey in November 2011 showed 30% support to 59% opposition among the general public. 47% were "strongly opposed."
That survey was conducted by EPIC-MRA pollers for the Detroit Free Press newspaper, which is a vocal supporter of the Downriver state bridge.
That would seem to give the bridge company a good shot at winning the ballot, and preventing construction of the downriver bridge.
Supreme Court appeal
In their brief for a state supreme court case DIBC says Michigan DOT has made "stunning admissions" recently that support the bridge company's legal argument.
"MDOT concedes the (Gateway) Project cannot be built as the (County) Court ordered (in a Feb 1, 2010) ruling or under the drawing the circuit court enforced against DIBC with contempt. This has been DIBC's core position since the case commenced. DIBC contends the drawings used by the Court as its decisional basis are not complete or buildable and that all DIBC built was within reasonable interpretation of the drawings. DIBC never got a trial to air this..."
The bridge company grievance about the Michigan courts has centered on the unwillingness of any court to actually hear its contract dispute with the state DOT fully, the county judge having originally ruled by 'summary judgment' in favor of the state on the bizarre assertion that no material facts were in dispute.
The DIBC submission says the county court arbitrarily reassigned DIBC's contractual work to MDOT, despite what it says is an admission by MDOT that the drawings it was ordered to work to were not buildable.
"The public needs to know that contracts will not be rewritten and contempt orders will not survive acts that purge contempt... These are fundamental issues. A doctrinal decision by the Supreme Court is justified by these circumstances."
Michigan public opinion:
copy of DIBC state Supreme Court filing:
NOTE: The concrete work of Pier 19 that is under demolition is more than two years old as I initially wrote. I'll clarify when I have the date of construction.