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Moroun not backing off bridge legal fight

Thursday, November 08, 2012   (0 Comments)
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Lansing — A spokesman for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun raised the specter Wednesday of legal challenges against Gov. Rick Snyder's Detroit River bridge plan.

The statement from Mickey Blashfield came after Tuesday's defeat of a Moroun-backed ballot proposal meant to block the deal between Snyder and the Canadian government. The governor Wednesday said Michigan is just months away from getting the permit needed to start construction on the $2.1 billion project.

"Anytime we get those permits in place, which again should happen within the next few months to a half a year or so … hopefully, we move (closer to) getting shovels in the ground," Snyder said Wednesday morning.

Blashfield's statement said the project will face legal hurdles and other challenges.

"If the governmental proposal doesn't collapse from the weight of legal and legislative scrutiny, the unstable salt mine foundations (of Snyder's bridge) will present some serious obstacles which should call the entire project into question," Blashfield said in the statement.

"Similar and serious financial, legal and logistical questions have already been raised regarding the viability of the NITC — questions Governor Snyder and his administration have still refused to answer directly."

Asked whether Moroun is threatening a legal challenge, Blashfield said: "The statement speaks for itself."

Moroun has repeatedly put up legal and political obstacles to building the $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing, which would compete with his bridge business and plans to build a second span next to his Ambassador Bridge.

The ballot initiative, Proposal 6, would have required a public vote to approve any new international bridge or tunnel in the state. Moroun and his company, the Detroit International Bridge Co., spent more than $33 million on efforts to get the proposal passed. The bridge company spent another $9 million in television ads opposing Snyder's bridge project.

Snyder's deal with Canada to build the bridge calls for a publicly owned bridge from southwest Detroit's Delray neighborhood to Windsor.

The proposal's defeat "clears the way for the construction of the new bridge across the Detroit River," Canadian Transport Minister Denis Label said in a statement Wednesday.

"We will continue to work with the Obama administration and our partners in Ontario and Michigan to obtain the necessary presidential permit to allow this important bridge to proceed."

The project will be funded mostly by Canada, which would lend Michigan money to pay for work on the U.S. side of the Detroit River. Michigan's debt would be repaid with bridge tolls.

The Moroun campaign conceded defeat at the polls late Tuesday, but read the results differently than Snyder did.

"It is clear the voters resisted amending the constitution, but it would be a mistake to assume taxpayers support a flawed government bridge that puts taxpayers at risk," said Blashfield, director of The People Should Decide.

The group was the primary backer of the statewide proposal.

Roy Norton, Canadian consul general to Detroit, campaigned across the state with Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in support of anew bridge.

"We're very heartened, Canadians are, that Michiganders have seen through the campaign that was waged by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge and that clearly Michiganders have decided they want a bridge built," Norton said late Tuesday.

Norton said he hoped theMorouns are willing to live with the results.

"It's a bit of a double-edged sword when you invite the people to decide and the people reject your hypothesis; clearly, you're not where you want to be," Norton said.

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said the business group anxiously waits to see whether Moroun will continue to put up obstacles to a new bridge.

"We're going to find out in the coming days if Matty Moroun really meant the people should decide,"Baruah said. "Will Matty now disarm?"

From The Detroit News:

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