May 28, 2010 at 12:45 pm
This is shaping up to be a particularly bad week for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun. First the Michigan House approved legislation that kept alive the prospect of a competing, publicly owned bridge being built downriver from the span connecting Detroit and Windsor. Then, Friday morning, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Moroun and his Ambassador Bridge Co. in a major case involving the Gateway Plaza project.

Gateway is a public-private effort designed to provide direct freeway access to the Ambassador. It ended up in court when the state claimed the company illegally altered aspects of the contract it had committed to. Unless the bridge company files an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, it must now comply with a ruling by Wayne Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards and dismantle parts of a truck plaza built over 23rd Street. The company must also construct a ramp designed to keep bridge truck traffic off surface streets around the southwest Detroit neighborhood where the truck plaza is located.

Still undecided is a case before Wayne Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald, who has yet to decide whether the company illegally took control of a section of 23rd Street. (Perhaps this ruling will inspire MacDonald to finally deal with both that issue and another dispute involving the company’s attempts to keep control of a section of Riverside Park the city says is being illegally fenced off.)

The case the state Supreme Court ruled on dealt exclusively with terms of the contract entered into by the company and the state Department of Transportation.

The ruling could end up costing the bridge company millions of dollars. It also means that Dan Stamper, the company’s president, will have to go before Judge Edwards and explain why he shouldn’t be hit with a contempt of court charge for failing to comply with Edwards’ initial ruling that construction unilaterally undertaken by the company that didn’t comply with the contract had to be dismantled.

That hearing, originally scheduled for early May, was put on hold until the state Supreme Court dealt with the company’s appeal.

However, as is typically the case with the bridge company, as long as there is an avenue available to keep fighting, keep fighting it will. In a statement released Friday, the company indicated that an attempt will now be made to take the issue to the federal courts: “DIBC intends to continue its efforts to work cooperatively and make the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project the best it can be for the main reasons it was intended, the free flow of trade and travelers, and the second span of the Ambassador Bridge. We look forward to MDOT opening the ramps and working cooperatively with DIBC. Today’s decision of the Michigan Supreme Court is not a final determination, only an interim decision on this matter.”