Will Matty Moroun be allowed to build 2nd bridge?

Feb 18, 2014

I heard something startling last weekend from a woman with whom I used to work. “So Matty Moroun is going to build a second bridge after all!” she said.

To which I said a very profound “huh?” 

Oh yes, she said. She had read it in the newspaper. She said the Canadians had given him the go-ahead to build a second span, next to his Ambassador Bridge.

That didn’t make any sense to me, since I have talked to Canadian officials and diplomats about this for years. Suddenly, I realized what she was talking about.

There was a story in the papers on Valentine’s Day saying that Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company had gotten environmental clearance from Canada for a new span.

Actually, it quoted officials of the bridge company as saying this. However, there were two problems with most versions of that story.

The minor problem is that what Moroun claimed – a claim reflected in the headlines – wasn’t quite true.

The Windsor Port Authority and Transport Canada did indeed issue a decision saying that a replacement for the Ambassador Bridge was unlikely to do serious damage to the environment.

That is, a replacement bridge – not the second twin span that Ambassador Bridge officials are talking about.

This assumes that the Ambassador would be taken out of service and, presumably, torn down. But the major flaw in these stories is that gaining environmental clearance is irrelevant.

There is still no way Matty Moroun will be allowed to build a second bridge. For one thing, he needs environmental approval on this side from the U.S. Coast Guard, plus a presidential permit.

For another, as bridge expert Joel Thurtell pointed out on his blog, Joelontheroad.com, Moroun doesn’t own the American land where the second bridge would be anchored. That land is in Detroit’s Riverside Park, and the city has refused to sell it to him.

So what about the real new bridge, the New International Trade Crossing, which is to be built about two miles south of the Ambassador?  That bridge has all its permits and approvals.

But one thing is holding it up: Washington is dragging its feet on appropriating $250 million to build a customs plaza.

I might remind you this is the most economically important border between the United States and Canada. The Canadians have agreed to pick up all the rest of the $2 to$4 billion the new project will take. But President Obama and Congress haven’t stepped up.

That prompted Gord Henderson, who works for the Windsor Star, to write a blistering column:

“How did a nation once labeled the planet’s sole remaining superpower become a country that can’t or won’t pay its fair share? Why hasn’t the Obama administration been a full partner in getting this done? What happened to the America that built the Panama Canal and sent men to the moon?”

And, Henderson added, why can’t the country that wasted hundreds of billions on the war in Iraq find a little money to complete a vital bridge with its most important trade partner?

I think those are completely legitimate questions. Ones for which we need to start demanding answers.