Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grosse Pointe Billionaire Strikes Out In Ambassador Bridge Lawsuit

Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards ordered Michigan DOT to take over the portion of Detroit’s Gateway Project linking the Ambassador Bridge to Interstates 96 and 75, and construction crews have begun demolishing Pier 19, the “ramp to nowhere” owned by billionaire Manuel Moroun, which stood in the way of the MDOT project. Through his companies Detroit International Bridge Company and Canadian Transit Company, Moroun owns the Ambassador toll bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Pier 19 was the aborted beginning of a second privately owned billion dollar bridge Moroun wanted to build alongside the Ambassador, to maintain his monopolies on truck traffic tolls and duty free diesel fuel at the border crossing. He couldn’t get financing or regulatory approval to complete construction of the second bridge.

The Ambassador, a suspension bridge over the Detroit River, was built in 1929 with what was the longest suspended central span in the world until construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1931. Moroun’s ownership of the bridge gives him a monopoly on more than 25% of all truck shipped merchandise trade between Canada and the United States, producing truck tolls of over $135,000.00 per day. In addition, Moroun’s Ammex Detroit Duty Free Store, a monopoly seller of duty free motor fuel, sells gasoline and diesel fuel to folks for a pump price a few cents less than nearby filling stations, while avoiding $0.60 per gallon in Canadian and American motor fuel taxes. Moroun pockets the difference of fifty to fifty five cents a gallon. Canadian and Michigan authorities have proposed a Detroit River International Crossing bridge directly connecting US Interstates 75 and 94 in Michigan with Canadian Highway 401, which would take the truck traffic from the Ambassador off the surface streets in Windsor, and break Moroun’s monopoly on tolls and duty free fuel sales.

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