Bridge toll

May 2, 2001 at 12:00 am

How delightful it is when public officials do the right thing. This time it was members of the Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals. It was a small act of fair-mindedness, but one that did not go unappreciated by the 25 residents of the southwest side who showed for up last week for the board meeting.

News Hits promised to keep you posted on whether the zoning board would approve Detroit International Bridge Company’s (DIBC) plans to expand its truck toll plaza. The company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge, plans to build seven new truck toll booths, 11 car toll booths and 11 diesel fuel pumps. In fact, the company is so eager to get the work done, it started construction earlier this year without a single work permit or proper zoning, according to a lawsuit that the City of Detroit filed against the DIBC in February. Though construction ceased, the DIBC’s alleged illegal act didn’t go unnoticed by the zoning board, which was to review the bridge company’s zone variance request and issue a decision last week.

“I see a proposal that was illegally started … which brings concern to this board member,” said Marvin Beatty, zoning board chairman.

Beatty had other concerns as well. When he asked how many opposed the project, about 25 folks raised their hands — some of whom told Beatty that the bridge company made little effort to inform them about its plans. Beatty responded by adjourning the hearing until DIBC officials and opponents could meet.

Dan Stamper, DIBC president, objected to the delay. He said that the expansion was urgent since trucks are backed up for two to three miles in Windsor; he said moving toll booths to the U.S. side will alleviate that congestion. Beatty didn’t buy this. And neither did the southwest brigade who fear that more toll booths and diesel fuel pumps that the company also wants to add will create more noise and pollution on this side of the bridge.

Beatty instructed the bridge company to meet with its neighbors and lay out its plans for the area, which they did immediately following the zoning board hearing.

The bridge company and the southwest residents may never see eye-to-eye on this project. But by Tuesday, May 22, at 11 a.m. — when this issue is to be heard again — the zoning board will at least know it did its best to bring the two sides together.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]