Ambassador Bridge company rejected by state Supreme Court but gets petition on ballot

April 28, 2012
By Peter Samuel

2012-04-27: The Michigan state Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal by the Ambassador Bridge company (DIBC) but its future its likely go a popular vote in a referendum in November. The state board of canvassers this week accepted the wording of the DIBC for November's general election.

A DIBC official said tonight that he wasn't surprised by the Supreme Court ruling: "We don't expect to win anything in this court system. It is up to the people to decide."

He said they had to try but didn't have any hope of having their case heard because the courts are so politicized, and will give state whatever it wants.

The supreme court rejected what had seemed like a serious closely reasoned appeal in an almost offhand manner, saying only that "we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this court."

No reasons given! Nothing.

State demolition of symbolic Pier 19

The bridge company also this week saw a state demolition contractor make quick work of removing 60ft high Pier 19, which the company had built in preparation for a modern replacement span parallel to the old.

 The stub deck next to the approach to the old bridge was of no practical value given Canadian opposition to a replacement bridge, but it was of symbolic importance to bridge company personnel and their opponents alike.

Jeff Cranson, PR for the state DOT said in a  statement: "We are pleased that the Michigan Supreme Court has again sided with the State of Michigan in its efforts to honor the taxpayers' investment in a safe and more efficient border crossing for commerce and travelers between the US and Canada. This ruling allows MDOT to continue to honor the March 8, 2012, court order and complete the Gateway Project at a rapid and unprecedented pace. We plan to open the truck route by mid-May and have the entire project complete in September."

Interference in toll, duty-free arrangements

Bridge officials say they have no idea what else the state plans to do in their plaza area since the state courts have given them a free hand. They say the duty free store, gasoline and diesel pumps and truck stop facilities are all at present carefully located beyond the toll lanes. And there are, deliberately, no exits.

That is to ensure that all users of the duty free facilities are forced to complete a journey across the bridge into Canada. They fear the state, given carte blanche by the courts, may move their toll lanes beyond the duty free store and build an exit to city streets before the tolls.

Then the state could move to end the duty-free status of the bridge company's store and fuel pumps, depriving it of substantial revenues.

The contract over the Gateway plaza never specified details of location of toll collection and of duty free facilities since these were thought at the time to be outside the scope of the contract. But the county judge handling the dispute over the contract has never allowed a full hearing, simply ruling by summary judgement in favor of the state. Then subsequently every challenge was dealt with as a 'contempt of court.'

The county judge, supported by higher courts has ruled in favor of everything the state has asked, including many features never addressed, or contrary to those specified in the original contract.

Gets on the ballot

The one win this week for the DIBC was the Board of State Canvassers first stage acceptance of their petition to go on the ballot at the November 6 general election. In a second stage they have to get about 325,000 signatures by early July to get to a vote.

The board describes it as a constitutional amendment "to require a vote of the people before the State of Michigan can construct or finance new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles."

It is intended to prevent the governor Rick Snyder circumventing the state legislature which has consistently declined to support a new state of Michigan-Canadian Government bridge downriver.

Traffic just isn't there

Major argument against a new bridge is the small traffic volume at the existing crossings - Ambassador Bridge 7.3m, Detroit Windsor Tunnel 3.8m, Blue Water Bridge 5.1m or a total of 16.2m at three crossings with 12 travel lanes.

Just this week, to take an example that popped up in the news, the USDOT approved credit support for a replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach for I-710. The existing bridge carries 18m/year or an average daily 68k on 4 travel lanes. There is no dispute that the new Gerald Desmond bridge - to replace the old one which will be removed - should be 6 lanes. But no one argued for more than 6 lanes. That's good for close to 100k/day or 36m/year.

10k to 15k/day per lane are the accepted capacity of bridges.

On that basis Michigan-Ontario has capacity with an existing 12 travel lanes on the three crossings of 120k to 180k/day.

Congestion at the border is the result of customs, immigration and homeland security inspection delays, not lack of bridge capacity.

A new 6 lane bridge as advocated by the governor Rick Snyder as an addition would make total capacity 180k to 240k/day or 66m to 88m/year.

With present traffic of 45k/day or 16.2m there would be huge surplus capacity - and greatly enlarged debt to be serviced by limited revenues.

With traffic spread over a 4th crossing there would have to be bankruptcies or major bailouts.

Acceptance of petition (Item L):

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Bal_Prop_Status_2011_2_346859_7.pdf

report on appeal to state Supreme Court:

http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/5893

IDEA: a petition to amend the constitution of Michigan to provide that: "Before any candidate for Governor may be placed on the ballot he or she shall be required to demonstrate proficiency in Arithmetic at Grade 6 level or higher."

TOLLROADSnews 2012-04-27

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