Ambassador Bridge owner denied expansion plans

| 3/3/2010

Quick! Somebody throw Matty Moroun a life preserver. His plan to twin the Ambassador Bridge appears to have gotten stuck in a current of red tape along the shores of the Detroit River.

The U.S. Coast Guard lowered the boom this week on Moroun’s plans to expand operations at the border bridge that connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario. The privately owned Ambassador Bridge, with 10,000 commercial trucks crossing each day, is the busiest border point in North America.

Coast Guard officials wrote to inform the billionaire’s Detroit International Bridge Co. that unresolved land issues with the city of Detroit have worn out his welcome.

“The Coast Guard has determined that the (Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project) permit application remains incomplete, after 3.5 years, and is returning it to DIBC,” Coast Guard Administrator of Bridge Programs Hala Elgaaly wrote in the letter dated Tuesday, March 2.

Courts recently ordered Moroun to tear down a gas station and other structures that he built on property owned by the city of Detroit.

The Coast Guard has a say in building permits that involve navigable waters. Officials said they see no reason to approve Moroun’s application.

“The Coast Guard has received no credible indication that the property rights issue is any closer to being resolved now, than it was over three years ago,” Elgaaly wrote. “Moreover, the results of recent cases in Michigan courts, coupled with Detroit City Council declarations, underscore the Coast Guard’s conclusion that DIBC is not likely to obtain the necessary property rights in the near future.”

According to the law, Moroun is allowed to keep trying and can resubmit his application for a Coast Guard bridge permit at any time.

Meanwhile, government officials in both the U.S. and Canada are in the planning stages to build a new Detroit River bridge about two miles away.

– By David Tanner, associate editor