Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ambassador Bridge Sues To Open Road

Remember this classic line from the Ambassador Bridge Co:
  • "We thought it was dirt or clay or construction debris -- but no, it is only retaliation"
And the photos:

Now you have this as the result:

Court asked to force MDOT to open new ramps to Ambassador Bridge

WARREN, Mich. – The Detroit International Bridge Co. filed a lawsuit today in the Michigan Court of Claims to compel the state highway department to immediately open completed freeway ramps to the Ambassador Bridge.

The ramps carrying traffic directly to the bridge from northbound and southbound I-75 and eastbound I-96, and the East Service Drive, were the main purpose of the $230 million Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project undertaken by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). As a partner in the Gateway Project, DIBC also spent more than $100 million of its own money to accommodate the new traffic flow.

“Citizens and taxpayers of the United States and the state of Michigan are being deprived of the benefits that their tax dollars were expended to deliver,” said DIBC President Dan Stamper. “To accept federal tax dollars to build a project and then refuse to open that project is a serious fraud upon the people.”

The direct freeway ramps to the bridge were completed in May 2009, and MDOT paid the contractor a $3.6 million bonus for completion ahead of schedule. But MDOT blocked the ramps – first with 2,424 tons of dirt and then with construction equipment – to prevent their use.

The bridge company seeks an injunction ordering MDOT to remove all barriers, equipment and debris that it has placed on the ramps. The motion for the injunction is part of a larger lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Michigan Court of Claims alleging that MDOT violated its partnership agreement with DIBC and is deliberately attempting to damage the Ambassador Bridge’s business because MDOT supports a proposed competing bridge project less than 2 miles away.

Besides the injunction to open the ramps, the bridge company also seeks substantial monetary damages as compensation for MDOT’s attempts to divert traffic from the Ambassador Bridge.

“Local news media have encouraged DIBC and MDOT to work together, and we have tried,” said Carl Marlinga, an attorney for the bridge company. “We finally concluded that MDOT will only fulfill our partnership if ordered to do so by the court.”

With the ramps closed, private and commercial travelers wanting to use the Ambassador Bridge are forced to take circuitous detours along narrow neighborhood streets.

Traffic from northbound I-75 headed to Canada is diverted onto city streets for about a mile, while traffic from southbound I-75 and eastbound I-96 is for about 2 miles.

Keeping the ramps closed has a profound negative effect on trucks moving goods in international and interstate commerce, DIBC said in its lawsuit. Trucks entering the United States from Canada are being detoured through city streets up to 4 miles to gain access to freeways.

Private automobiles entering the U.S. from Canada can access northbound I-75 and westbound I-96 on new ramps that are open, but cars headed to southbound I-75 are detoured onto the same surface streets used by detoured traffic that could be using the unopened bridge access ramps.

“These needless MDOT detours expose drivers and passengers to dangerous traffic conditions, while wasting fuel and subjecting neighborhoods to greater noise and air pollution,” Stamper said. “MDOT’s detours through Detroit are causing worse traffic conditions than those the Gateway Project aimed to avoid.”

MDOT forces motorists to use the intersection of West Grand Boulevard and I-75 service ramp as the only access to the Ambassador Bridge. This intersection is cluttered with detour and construction signs, clogged with trucks and auto traffic.

“In trying to hurt our company, MDOT is callously disregarding the safety of the citizens it is charged to serve, standing in the way of economic growth in Southwest Detroit and damaging the city’s image among international travelers,” Stamper said.

About the Detroit International Bridge Co.
The Detroit International Bridge Co., based in Warren, Mich., owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge linking the United States and Canada near downtown Detroit since 1929. Privately owned and built with private funds, the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest international border crossing in North America, with about 5 million cars and 2.5 million trucks using the bridge each year. DIBC employs 300 people in the United States and Canada, and actively supports a wide variety of community organizations, charities and universities. For more information, visit