Michigan DOT asking judge in Gateway dispute case to transfer plaza construction power to a receiver

October 25, 2011
By Peter Samuel

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is asking for a court order transferring control of the Ambassador Bridge approaches and plaza area to a court-appointed receiver. In an 'appeal' to Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards MDOT reasserts earlier complaints that the Ambassador Bridge company has failed to comply with his orders to built its portion of the Gateway project according to plans agreed with MDOT.

MDOT won a court case in February 2010 in which Edwards ordered the bridge company to remove a variety of structures - gasoline pumps, a duty-free store, and toll lanes - and to build ramps and bridging.

The bridge company appealed and lost.

MDOT previously has been pressing for a finding of contempt of court against senior officers of the bridge company (Detroit International Bridge Company) and Judge Edwards has set Nov 3 as the date for a ruling. He has previously set Jan 10, 2012 as the date for the company to complete works meeting his Jan 2010 order.

Matthew Maroun vice-chairman of the DIBC bridge company told us earlier this week in a telephone interview that work to comply with the judge's orders is well under way and they expect to be in compliance by the deadline.

But Michigan DOT paint an opposite picture of continuing non-compliance by the bridge company.

They say in the 'appeal' to the judge released today: "There is no evidence on the record that would remotely suggest that DIBC has complied with the February 1, 2010 Order. Conversely, the record contains substantial evidence that DIBC has, in fact, done just the opposite ... but, in fact, continues to hamper and delay that construction by failing to remove conflicting structures..."

The Gateway project is intended to modernize connections between the Ambassador Bridge on the US side of the international river and interstates 75 and 96 with higher speed direct connector ramps and provision of more space for US customs and homeland security to expedite their clearance of people and cargoes coming in from Canada.  The $230m project was split between MDOT and the bridge company (DIBC). Construction  began early 2008.

There was soon disagreement between the two as to how the separate pieces fit together and some of the ramps are still not connected.

The bridge company built some parts of their section of the project to connect with a new parallel span they want to build, but which MDOT strong opposes as undercutting a downriver bridge (known as DRIC or NITC) that the state agency wants to build with the Canadians instead.

In the latest court tussle MDOT asks that a court-appointed 'receiver' be put in charge of works to bring the bridge company plaza into what they say would be compliance with the contract plans. The receiver could employ a contractor to demolish bridge company fuel pumps and duty-free store and to build roadway sections conforming with MDOT plans.

MDOT tells the judge that a performance bond for $30m issued by Safeco at the bridge company's expense should be put at the disposal of the court-appointed receiver to pay for the demolitions and construction work it wants on bridge company property.

Bridge company pictures of 'SO2' ramp they are completing:

http://www.ambassadorbridge.com/!Downloads/Bridge%20Construction_Opt_10-13-11.pdf

TOLLROADSnews 2011-10-25

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