S01's piers 11, 12, 13 - MDOT's issue fabrication & the travesty of justice at Ambassador Bridge Gateway
The widely accepted narrative on the Ambassador Bridge Gateway legal battle repeated endlessly in the bridge company-hating Detroit media is that the details of the contested contract were clear, simple, and well understood, and that the bridge company has stubbornly refused for years now to stick to the contract or to obey a judge's order to rebuild to contract specs. And not just the local media. It was parroted also in Forbes magazine which under a headline "Billionaire Bridge Owner's Greed Lands Him in Jail" (Jan 12) referred to company scion 84-year old Matty Maroun as "stretching the law to its limit" and "foot dragging" in failing to build what the "bridge company agreed to the plan under a 2004 contract" (with Michigan DOT.)
But delve into the detail of one of the issues being cited as reason to find the company in breach of contract and in contempt of the court, and one of the issues warranting fines and indefinite jail for a couple of its top officials - jailing enthusiastically supported by MDOT's lawyer in the case Robert Mol. The issue is a clockwise curving and rising 4-then-3 lane ramp called S01 (Structure number 1) that takes trucks and cars from the ground level US entry plaza up to the high approach span to the bridge toward Canada.
SO1 is built of steel I-beam girders spanning sets of supporting concrete piers, and is topped with a poured concrete deck roadway. Spans of Piers 9, 10 and 11 have toll booths and head motorists by fuel pumps and parking for a large refreshments, restrooms, duty-free store.
Three piers 11, 12, and 13 allow a twin 2-lanes road to go under S01. They make the westerly of the two 2-lane south heading roadways jog southwest. Since mid-June 2011 these piers and the westward jog of one 2-lane roadway have been cited as one count of the bridge company's breach of contract with Michigan DOT. The westerly 2-lanes roadway allows drivers a choice of going straight ahead to the service area or swinging south to go around the south side of the service area bypassing it. The easterly of the 2-lane roadways goes straight south and its traffic must bypass the service area.
So vehicles have a choice as they approach the toll lanes under the S01 structure. They go to a line of fuel pumps and to parking space if they want to buy food, use restrooms or shop at a DIBC duty-free store.
If drivers don't want to fuel or shop, but instead go straight to Canada, they have two 2-lane roadways to bypass the fuel/shopping area and circle round and up onto the S01 and the bridge and on to Canada.
S01 and three piers cited as breach of contract, then contempt
Matty Moroun family company elder and Dan Stamper president of the bridge company were ordered to jail January 12 by Judge Edwards because - among other issues cited - they'd supposedly disregarded a court order to rebuild S01, P11, P12 and P13 and to change the roadway through there.
Edwards' jailing order of Jan 12 this year charged:
"DIBC has chosen to ignore the February 1, 2010 Order of this Court. DIBC has failed to correct certain variances, remove certain structures, and construct certain components in accordance with the approved designs, including the following:…
"3. Piers 11, 12 and 13 under S01 were constructed in conflict with the four-lane road required by the C1 drawing attached to the Performance Bond."
This is a travesty of justice.
The Jailin Judge misrepresents his own February 1 2010 order to contrive this baseless charge.
Judge Edwards fabricates an issue January 12 this year not even mentioned in his February 1 2010 order or in his January 10 2011 contempt finding.
He ordered two victims to jail for their company failing to do something that he'd never even asked them, or the company, to do.
Judicial incompetence or dishonesty
This is incompetence or dishonesty, and hence injustice of breathtaking proportions to have occurred in an American court of law. And not to have been addressed by the state court of appeals.
We post a copy of the Jailin Judge's February 1 2010 order and invite readers to read it and see if they can find where Edwards mentions S01 and Piers 11, 12 and 13. He doesn't.
And the first contempt order Jan 10 2011. It doesn't mention S01/P11-13 either.
And we post a copy of the jailings order January 12 2012 in which he misrepresents what he himself ordered.
Please readers: read all three in order to grasp the miscarriage of justice involved in this judge's charge of disobedience of his order in citing an item that was never the subject of an order. (download links at the bottom)
S01/P11-13 was built 2008-2009, and opened to traffic in the spring of 2009, months before the complaint of June 2009. Trucks and cars were using S01/P11-13 well before the complaint. They didn't feature in the complaint. They were part of works described by in a Michigan DOT plan as "Completed" in the affidavit of MDOT senior engineer Victor Judnic. Michigan DOT had no problem with S01/P11-13 then.
S01 and Piers 11, 12, and 13 (S01/P11-13) don't feature in Michigan DOT's initial complaint of breach of contract June 24 2009 by the bridge company. They weren't an issue.
January 10 2011 Judge Edwards issued his first contempt order. It involved complicated issues surrounding enlargement of the plaza area, acquisition of landlocked properties, locations of toll booths, a secondary maintenance road, a section of truck route along the side of Fort Street… but not a word on any issue with S01/P11-13.
It was then that Judge Edwards earned his moniker the Jailin Judge because at the end of that Order he sent bridge company president Dan Stamper to jail until the company "begins to comply with the February 1 2010 Order."
Stamper wasn't in Wayne County jail long since he and the lawyers apparently persuaded Edwards the same day that they were, indeed, beginning to comply with orders he had given. So that 'jailing' was really just showbiz publicity to appeal to those who wanted to get "tough" with supposedly recalcitrant bridge company people.
Further a bridge company official tells me that a meeting February 2, 2011 with the court monitor present the MDOT representative present said explicitly that S01 and all the piers as-built was part of the project that was "approved and accepted" by MDOT. Neither did any demand for work on S01/P11-13 appear in their "summary disposition motion" or on the "schedule of work" as issues they were then demanding via Judge Edwards.
Right through the spring of last year S01/P11-13 wasn't an issue.
The June 9 2011 report of Charles Scales, court appointed 'monitor' to Judge Edwards discusses over 6 pages various issues of contention between the bridge company and MDOT: 21st St, S03, emergency access road, property transfers for S32, vacation of 23rd St, fueling stations and canopy in the way of the 4/3 road, Pier 19 and the truck road. Not a word about a problem with S01/P11-13.
No mention of S01/P11-13 issue until June 18 2011
It wasn't until a few weeks later - mid-June 2011 - that Michigan DOT decided to make an issue of S01/P11-13.
June 18 2011 MDOT asked Judge Edwards for an additional order for the bridge company to rebuild S01/P11-13 - the first time they had raised it. They said it was in conflict with Concept drawing C-1 - a concept site plan insufficient in detail to build to because it lacked dimensions, alignments and other data for building to, but the best they had when they did the Performance Bond.
C-1 had been marked "FOR INFORMATION ONLY - NOT FOR CONSTRUCTION". To any fair minded person it was superseded by the Agreed working drawings, dozens of them, all with dimensions, bearings - stuff for builders to locate piles and formwork and order girders for fabrication.
If you took C-1 literally as a binding design then the bridge company would have to give up toll collection of Canada-bound traffic, as well as sale of fuel and a refreshments/restrooms/duty-free store because it makes no provision for any toll lanes and no provision for turning off for fuel or shopping.
4 lanes would come in off the interstate expressways do a complete rising circle round a large empty plaza, narrow to 3 lanes and later 2 lanes and go onto the bridge to Canada.
The piers 9 through 13 supporting S01 were oriented to allow south-bound traffic to jog southwest. Heading directly south off the expressways 4 lanes split into a pair of 2 lane roadways. The easterly 2-lane roadway continues straight ahead under the structure, while the westerly roadway jogs southwest (see C-1 plan versus aerial photo.)
Toll lanes and toll booths for Canada-bound traffic were built into roadway lanes frames by piers 9 through 13 and into the easterly 2 lane roadway that continues a distance under S01.
Raising S01/P11-13 belatedly as an issue is only explicable as a Michigan DOT contrivance to punish the bridge company financially. Those piers and the structure above frame the access roads to the truck fuel pumps and to parking for the refreshment/restrooms/duty free store - profitable and legitimate business activities and a service to bridge users.
Forcing relocations and rebuilding would neatly disrupt traffic to the fuel pumps and refreshments/duty free store and cost the company both rebuild and business loss costs.
An MDOT official has explained to us that routing traffic through these piers and the details of curvature and edge treatments and offsets don't meet federal standards for interchange ramps, suggesting that the feds might ask for some of their grant money back for the state portion if not "corrected."
But these aren't expressway standard interchange ramps.
Traffic has to stop for tolls. They're toll and service plaza roadways.
Nothing useful is achieved by rebuilding piers to straighten out the westerly of the two 2-lane service area bypass roads.
And it is all beside the point anyway as a legal matter.
When you've watched construction, accepted it, and see it opened for traffic for months, even well-intentioned second thoughts don't justify charges of breach of contract, let alone belatedly adding them to lists of needed corrective actions, or - more preposterously still - representing resistance to that belated rebuilding demand as contempt of court.
MDOT lawyer Robert Mol is using the Jailin Judge to pursue not law, but unscrupulous Our-Way-or-the-Lockup style bullying.
Plus vindictive financial hits on the company's shareholders and insurers.
And unnecessary disruption of traffic.
Edwards order Feb 1 2010:
Edwards contempt 10 Jan 2011:
Edwards jailing order 12 Jan 2012: