Ambassador Bridge company loses yet another in court - MDOT can come in and build

April 13, 2012

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected the Ambassador Bridge company's objection to a county court judge's handover of the Gateway Plaza project to the state DOT. Presiding Judge Karen Hood in a short ruling (see nearby) denied the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) leave to appeal rulings by Wayne County judge Prentis Edwards that:

- assigned control over completing the project on bridge company property to Michigan DOT

- ordered the DIBC to deposit $16 million in a bank account to be administered by Michigan DOT to pay for its expenses

- gave Michigan DOT full discretion as to what it demolishes and what it builds with bridge company money on bridge company property

- allows the state DOT to charge expenses in excess of $16 million to the bridge company

Judge Hood in her ruling today said county Judge Edwards' March 8 order to this effect was "well within (his) broad discretion in ordering specific performance of DIBC's outstanding obligations under the contract as directed by (his) February 1, 2010 order."

Her ruling continued: "Under the circumstances of this case, as thoroughly explained by the Trial Court (Judge Edwards') March 8 2012 order, the order was just and equitable. Furthermore there was nothing in this Court's opinion of February 6 that precluded the trial court from exercising its discretion in this manner."

Michigan DOT happy

A Michigan DOT spokesman welcomed the Appeals Court's ruling saying it allows the state to move forward quickly with work to demolish portions of the project it has claimed don't conform with their contract with the bridge company. They hope to start work within days, and are eager to have their contractor demolish Pier 19 which supports a deck stub to a new parallel span that DIBC had hoped to build to replace the 82 year old suspension span.

Michigan DOT signed the contract which makes support for the second span a mayor agreed objective, but they changed their mind and now prefer a competing government owned bridge about 2 miles downriver. As disagreement grew over the past two years both sides dragged their feet on completing the project which is about construction of direct connector ramps to nearby interstates I-75 and I-96. Michigan DOT blocked off completed ramps and stalled on construction of bridging on their territory, while until last summer the bridge company stalled on contentious portions of the project on their property.

Judge Edwards refused to hear the breach of contract claims in full court right off ruling in the state's favor by summary judgment. Higher courts also refused to hear the contract dispute, virtually rubber-stamping Edwards' dismissive handling of the case.

Report on the appeal just rejected:

COMMENT: The bridge company made a serious mistake in signing a contract on a project which was not fully developed and was the subject of tentative and sometimes conflicting sketch plans. They were also naive in assuming goodwill on the part of the state, overlooking the possibility the state would change from being a partner to being a competitor, and a ruthless one.

But other MIchigan institutions have failed, most seriously the courts.

Their performance has been a travesty of justice - refusing to hear the heart of the case with the preposterous proposition that there were no material facts in dispute and summary judgment, allowing vindictive behavior by the county judge against bridge company officers over a civil contract issue, then refusing to hear appeals.

Not a scintilla of due process.

And the Michigan media form a boringly predictable chorus of shills for the state on the bridge issue. Their personification of the dispute as the Enlightened World versus the Evil Villain Matty Moroun is both childish and nasty.

Governor Rick Snyder's administration has shown no interest in settling the dispute, Snyder himself getting carried away by the notion that a fancy new state bridge downriver will somehow help the state's economy - although there is already a serious surplus of crossing capacity. The Michigan-Ontario border sees a mere 50,000 vehicles a day spread thinly over three crossings and 12 bridge and tunnel lanes. You might justify a 4th crossing and 18 lanes if the traffic were 150,000 a day, or even 100,000 with prospects for growth.

50,000 vehicles are normally handled with one or two crossings and 6 or 8 lanes, not 3 and 12, let alone the proposed 4 crossings and 18 lanes.

NOTE: The Public Border Operators Association vehicles data for the Ambassador Bridge, Blue Water Bridge and Detroit Windsor Tunnel for 2011 was 16,163,000 vehicles 44,300/day so the 50,000 above is generous.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-04-13

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