Ambassador Bridge

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The New International Trade Crossing has taken a big step closer to becoming reality. 

Recently, the U.S. State Department approved the project which will allow the creation of a second span across the Detroit River from Detroit to Windsor.

The residents, business owners, and civic leaders in the Delray neighborhood have been watching the progress of this project very closely.

Delray is where the bridge would be built - where traffic would flow - and where life will change.

Will the bridge bring good things to the southwest Detroit neighborhood and its residents, or will their quality of life be sacrificed for the economic benefits to Michigan?

Simone Sagovac is with the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition. Today, she told us how the new bridge will affect Delray residents and whether the two can exist.

Listen to the full interview above.

Three years ago, it seemed possible we’d never see a new bridge over the Detroit River. True, most businesses and corporations felt that one would definitely be needed.

The existing Ambassador Bridge is more than 80 years old, but carries 25 percent of all the trade between the United States and Canada -- more than $3 billion a week.

There is no backup for it, and even a temporary shutdown would wreak havoc on the economies of Michigan and Ontario.

But thanks to lavish campaign contributions, Manuel J. “Matty Moroun” had been able to effectively buy off the Michigan legislature, to the point where they would not even allow a vote on the issue.

Once, when I asked U.S. Senator Carl Levin if anything surprised him about Detroit, his answer was “the incredible power of Moroun.” Yet last Friday, there stood a triumphant Governor Rick Snyder with an array of Canadian officials.

Secretary of State John Kerry had just issued a presidential permit allowing a New International Trade Crossing Bridge to be built.

Backers of a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor are expected to announce that the project has cleared one of the final hurdles later today.

The Windsor Star reports that Governor Snyder and other supporters of the Detroit River International Crossing will announce that the bridge project has finally received a permit from the U.S. Department of State. .

A forty year old federal law gives the State Department the authority to approve international bridges.

The permit is seen as a key step in the 2 billion dollar bridge project.  

Last year was a major milestone in the epic battle to get a new and badly needed bridge across the Detroit River. Frustrated by the Michigan Legislature’s unwillingness to even vote on the issue, Governor Rick Snyder found a legal way to bypass the lawmakers.

Snyder found a clause in the Michigan Constitution that allowed him to conclude an “interlocal” agreement with the government of Canada. This didn’t make Matty Moroun, the 85 year-old owner of the 84 year old Ambassador Bridge, happy.

Moroun then spent close to $40 million attempting to get Michigan voters to ratify a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have essentially given him monopoly control of our nation’s most important border crossing for all time.

We haven’t heard much about the great Detroit River bridge debate since the November election. That’s when Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s attempt to amend the state constitution to preserve his monopoly.

Earlier last year, Governor Rick Snyder bypassed the Michigan legislature and used a little-known  provision of the constitution to sign an agreement with Canada allowing for a New International Trade Crossing to be built south of the existing bridge.

The Ambassador Bridge is currently the only way heavy freight can be moved across the river, at least between Port Huron and Buffalo. The governor and virtually all business interests agree that a backup is essential.

So why aren’t shovels in the ground? Well, the short answer is bureaucracy.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A judge in Detroit has ordered the owners of the Ambassador Bridge to reimburse the state Department of Transportation $4.5 million for work done on a freeway-to-bridge project.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards made the order last week.

Edwards told bridge owner Manuel Moroun in 2010 to rebuild a ramp. Moroun was jailed earlier this year when the work was not done.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is returning to Canada to discuss plans for a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, nearly six months after signing the deal to build the Canadian-financed span.

The Republican governor will talk in Toronto on Monday about the New International Trade Crossing. He's there to speak at a conference on public-private partnerships and announce a pact with Great Lakes governors on a virtual Canada trade office.

This has been a bad year for Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge. In January, he was thrown in jail overnight, for failing to comply with court orders to live up to an agreement he’d signed to finish a road project near his bridge.

The Ambassador Bridge
user Patr1ck / Wikimedia Commons

A week after the election, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is switching gears from fighting a ballot proposal that sought to block a new international bridge, to taking further steps to build the New International Trade Crossing bridge.

Governor Snyder's office and top Canadian officials are getting more information out about the proposed bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

After spending around $40 million to try to block a new international bridge downriver of their Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family issued a statement that said in part "like any family business, we would do it again - and will in different ways - to defend economic freedom and limited government." Now the new bridge moves forward.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A giant tour bus outside the Grand Rapids hotel where Governor Rick Snyder spoke Monday says it all – vote yes on prop one and no on the rest.

Snyder, some business leaders and even an emergency financial manager will be on the bus for the four day tour. They’ll stop in towns throughout the state to discuss the proposals.

Governor Snyder says he’s trying to better inform voters about their options.

You might say there was more than usual going on last night. There was the last game of the National League baseball playoffs, in which San Francisco completed a dramatic comeback to take on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Meanwhile, on another channel, the Detroit Lions were blowing their Monday night football game.

And Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were locked in the final debate of the closest presidential campaign in years, this time arguing about foreign policy and the state of the world.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan curriculum has disappointing results

"An effort to improve Michigan’s high school academic standards appears to be having a disappointing result. The Michigan Merit Curriculum was implemented in Michigan high schools in 2006. Researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and the state of Michigan found that test scores improved only slightly for students  entering high school with strong academic skills.   But for those with weak skills, test scores fell and graduation rates declined," Steve Carmody reports.

Snyder says Prop 6 would cause court battle if passed

"Governor Rick Snyder is worried Proposal 6 on the November ballot would spark a lengthy court battle if it’s passed. The initiative would require a state-wide vote before any new international crossing could be built in the state. Governor Rick Snyder says his plan for a new international bridge in Detroit is not meant to put the existing Ambassador Bridge out of business. Current bridge owners say a new bridge is not necessary, and would be expensive for Michigan taxpayers. Canada has agreed to front the costs of the new bridge, and a number of studies have concluded there will be no new costs to state taxpayers," Jake Neher reports.

McCotter aids in court for campaign scandal

"Two men who worked for a Detroit-area congressman are returning to court to learn if they'll stand trial in a campaign scandal. Paul Seewald and Don Yowchuang are charged with conspiring to get then-Congressman Thaddeus McCotter on the 2012 ballot with bogus petitions. The judge says he'll make a decision on the matter today," the AP reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is focused on the Michigan ballot with two weeks to go before Election Day.

On Monday, Snyder appeared alongside Canadian consul general Roy Norton at a Canada-United States Business Association meeting town hall in Detroit.

Both men asked Michigan and Canadian business leaders to support the proposed New International Trade Crossing. And both urged a “no” vote on Proposal 6, which would require a statewide referendum on any new international crossings. He says he’s in “campaign mode.”

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."    

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Detroit Free Press reports that the United Auto Workers union - no friend to Governor Rick Snyder - is considering a deal with billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun - also no friend to the Governor.

The deal would involve Moroun helping the union pay for ads in support of Proposal 2, which would enshrine labor organizing rights in the state constitution.

Concept NITC Drawing

Mickey Blashfield, Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun's director of government relations and head of the Moroun-financed group "The People Should Decide" released a statement following a report from the Detroit Free Press on a possible deal between the UAW and Moroun.

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the Michigan ballot this fall would require a statewide vote before state money could be spent on any “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” could be built in Michigan. The amendment would require the vote even before any tax money could be spent planning an international crossing. This would effectively stop the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. The effort is funded by the family that owns the Ambassador bridge.

Michigan Radio

A report commissioned by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge says Gov. Rick  Snyder has not given voters enough information about the economic impact of a proposed new span over the Detroit River. 

The analysis by a Grand Rapids consulting firm says plans for the new bridge are not economically feasible.

"A CEO in the private sector making a multi-billion-dollar investment with concerns about the bottom line in shareholder return would put this proposal under a lot more scrutiny than it appears the governor has," says Patrick O'Keefe, CEO of O'Keefe and Associates.

As election day approaches, you’re likely to see a lot of ads critical of an agreement between Canada and Michigan regarding a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

[Ad Clip:] “It will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year.”

Whether Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of that bridge is at the heart of a fierce debate about the agreement.

The election is six weeks away, and the vast majority of the media attention has been on whether President Obama or Mitt Romney will win the state. But I think that in Michigan, the real importance may be about something bigger.

This election will also determine whether one incredibly rich man can essentially buy our government for his own selfish interest.

That man is Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River. He is 85 years old, and according to Forbes, is worth close to two billion dollars.

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

The Board of State Canvassers deadlocks on the ballot proposal that would require public votes to construct a new international bridge. The measure is backed by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, who are trying to block a competing bridge. They could now go to court to get on the ballot.

Jim Wallace /

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are trying to renew an environmental permit for a proposed twin span.

The twin span idea has been rejected by both Governor Snyder and Canadian officials. They’ve already signed a deal to build a new bridge, the so-called New International Trade Crossing, further downriver.


A newly created group is challenging a ballot petition that would require a vote on future international bridge and tunnel crossings.

The group Taxpayers Against Monopolies supports a New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor, so it’s challenging a ballot petition filed by The People Should Decide which is supported by the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Moroun family.

The ballot petition would require a vote on all international crossings that use any taxpayer money.

Dilapidated homes in Delray near Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The fight between Governor Rick Snyder and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun about a new bridge connecting Detroit and Canada will be in the news for the foreseeable future. What’s often lost in the arguments is the people of the Detroit neighborhood where the new bridge will land.

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is pushing for a new $2 billion bridge from Detroit to Canada. The owners of the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge are fighting to stop that new bridge. The latest move is to get a constitutional amendment calling for a vote of the people before building any new bridge to cross the border. That will give the company another avenue to delay or stop the new bridge from being built.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The arguments for and against building a new bridge to Canada at Detroit, for the most part, have been pretty one-sided. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are fighting it and spending tons of money in TV ads. 

If you watch TV at all, you’ve probably seen one of the Ambassador Bridge-sponsored ads criticizing plans for a new bridge.

“Governor Snyder says, ‘Send Canada the bill.’ But, the Canadians have other ideas.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of confusion about how much a new bridge across the Canadian border at Detroit might cost taxpayers. TV ads say it will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year. The governor says it will cost Michigan nothing.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says we need a new bridge to Canada. It will mean more trade and more and better jobs. Not everyone agrees, especially the owners of the single bridge in Detroit which connects Michigan to Canada.

Eight thousand trucks a day cross the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Ambassador Bridge.
Lester Graham

The question of whether to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario has been the source of ongoing conflict between Gov. Snyder and Matty Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge Company.

Reporter Lester Graham, with Michigan Watch, will bring us a special five-part series on the debate about building a new bridge. The series begins on Monday August 13.

The Ambassador Bridge
user Mikerussel / Wikimedia Commons

Detroit police say they received another bomb threat on the Ambassador Bridge on Wednesday evening. This time, authorities kept the busy international crossing open while they investigated the call.

Police said the call came about 5:15 p.m, and the site was "officially cleared" for safety at 7 p.m.

This latest bomb threat is the second called on the bridge this week, and it marks the third recent bomb threat on transportation links between the United States and Canada.

On July 12, someone called in a similar threat on the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. 

The previous two calls resulted in several-hour shutdowns of the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor tunnel, which allowed police to search the area.  No bombs were found during either search.

After receiving the latest threat to the Ambassador Bridge on Wednesday, Sgt. Eren Stephens says, police let traffic continue, reports the AP.

A statement from police says "preliminary Intelligence" indicates that Wednesday's caller "may have made hoax bomb threats in the past."

Authorities let Comerica Park remain open Tuesday despite another bomb threat during a Detroit Tigers game.

The Detroit News also reported that a bomb squad responded to a report of a suspicious package found at Cobo Center last Monday.

Although the bomb-related threats occurred over a short time period, it remains unclear if the calls are made by the same people or person, reported the Wall Street Journal:

Andrew Arena, the former head of the Detroit FBI office who now is executive director of the Detroit Crime Commission, said bomb-threat hoaxes often come in bunches. "Is it one person or a copycat? A lot of times somebody does this and then copycat people jump on board," he said. "It's certainly a stress on law enforcement and everybody who has to respond to this stuff."

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom