War weariness on the Detroit River?
It's premature to report that peace has broken out at the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Plaza but since February 10 when a state appeals court released president Dan Stamper and family company elder Matty Moroun from the vindictive grip of the wild Wayne county 'jailing judge' there has been at least lull in hostilities. And a possible path to peace mapped out.
Officials on both sides say that if the other side cooperates there could be completion of major works by May, and an opening to traffic early June.
Constructive developments in the past several weeks include:
- Michigan DOT have suddenly gone silent on their complaints that they didn't have land titles or easements they needed from the DIBC bridge company for the S32 2-lane ramp bridge to the I-75 and work has actually begun by a state contractor (old photo nearby was captioned before recent work)
- agreement has been reached on realignment of piers 11,12, 13 to straighten the alignment of the westerly of two 2-lane direct entry roadways leading in to the loop ramp that will take traffic up to the elevation of the approach span on the way to Canada
- DIBC has done some work to relocate Pier 19 alongside Fort Street that MDOT claimed gets in the way of a maintenance road, and they have presented MDOT and the jailing judge's 'Monitor' with drawings (see plan and section drawings on buff background nearby) showing how they propose to rebuild the pier columns
- MDOT seems to have dropped its demand for jump-up overpasses S4 and S5 over a now non-existent 23rd Street originally designed to provide access to landlocked properties since bought by the bridge company and incorporated into the entry plaza
- at 21st Street where the bridge company was under orders to perform road widening opposed by the US border protection service MDOT has agreed to talk further
There are differences still:
- MDOT officials continue to say they want bridge company toll booths moved from near piers 11, 12 and 13, which would be their second move, and the acceptable location remains unclear
- MDOT have just come up with a new requirement for the maintenance/service road near pier 19 to provide for turning by 67ft tractor trailers rather than normal 2-axle maintenance dump trucks for which it was first proposed
- DIBC still doesn't have any current permit from the state for construction of the Fort Street entry to the truck road just beyond Pier 19, a previously granted state permit having expired
- DIBC has no assurance that MDOT will remove the barriers obstructing use of long completed ramps, barriers whose purpose appears to have been to keep trucks using local streets to maintain political pressure on the bridge company
- demands by MDOT that DIBC build concrete curbs and guard rails physically delineating roadways in the plaza area rather than the stripe-delineated roadways DIBC prefers
- MDOT's continued support in the county court for the jailing of senior bridge officials for supposed breach of contract, breach of contract being defined as failing to build whatever changes MDOT now wants
- the bridge company's appeal to the state supreme court to rehear the case revisiting the jailing' judge's 100% record of rulings for MDOT
The bridge company now has its side of the Gateway project in the hands of two former top MDOT officials Patrick Nowak and Ted Wahby (who along with DIBC president Dan Stamper form the company's Gateway Plaza special committee) rather than the Morouns.
This apparently made for a more friendly and cooperative approach at meetings last week.
Perhaps more important Nowak and Wahby have been having meetings with "high level management" of MDOT in Lansing, bypassing for the first time the combative MDOT managers in Detroit and especially the MDOT lawyer Bob 'our-way-or-the-lockup' Mol.
Matthew Moroun rebuffed by MDOT secretary Kirk Steudle in October
Previous efforts by bridge company's presumptive boss Matthew Moroun to meet with MDOT secretary Kirk Steudle where rebuffed. Matthew Moroun, 38, who is majority shareholder of the DIBC and taking over from his 84 year old father Matty Moroun was attempting to get past apparently irreconcilable disagreements between lawyers and engineers.
In October alone, according to documents from MDOT he attempted five times unsuccessfully to meet one-on-one with Kirk Steudle, MDOT chief. We reproduce the documents nearby.
October 7: Moroun wrote to Steudle asking to get together with him on the list of disagreed items.
October 11: Moroun writes again to Steudle saying the dispute "has gone on far too long" and suggesting again the two need to meet.
October 13: Moroun writes another time to Steudle: "we must meet as principals". He says that "maybe my attorney and engineer are wrong" and that he wants to "resolve the entire matter." He suggests 6 times for a meeting.
October 18: Moroun writes a three line letter citing the judge's suggestion that new people be added to meetings with his Monitor Charles Edwards, adding: I suggest that you and I be those persons. Let's get this resolved. Please join me."
October 26: Moroun writes saying there are only eleven weeks left to meet the Judge's Jan 11 2012 deadline for bridge work, saying MDOT has failed to do its part to finish the project: "We've been begging MDOT top work on S32" adding in a PS "Were you told we offered to build the ramp for you?" His main message is: "We need an agreement on the whole project - we can still hit the date."
None of Moroun's moves to talk directly received any response from Steudle except for one saying that engineers (who had failed to reach agreement over three years) should continue to do the talking.