Another legal challenge to Gordie Howe Bridge denied

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News
A rendering of the Gordie Howe International Bridge includes a lane for bicycles and pedestrians.

The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear a legal challenge by the billionaire owners of the Ambassador Bridge to halt the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the Windsor-Detroit span that began to be built in September. 

The state's top court issued a Dec. 21 order that it will not take up the Ambassador Bridge owners' attempt to overturn an earlier decision by the Michigan Court of Appeal. That decision upheld the legal framework to build the rival international crossing. 

The Ambassador Bridge is owned by Manuel "Matty" Moroun. Moroun is a billionaire who, along with his son Matthew, control trucking and logistics firms in the United States and abroad. The Morouns have spent millions on legal and political campaigns aimed at killing the Gordie Howe Bridge because it views the public-private venture as a threat to its Ambassador Bridge.  None of the efforts have succeeded.

 The latest court decision is more proof the Morouns cannot stop the project, said a representative for the Gordie Howe bridge. 

"We are very gratified by yet another judicial decision, this one issued by the Michigan Supreme Court, that is a validation of the project," said Andy Doctoroff, an attorney and consultant for the state of Michigan on the Gordie Howe Bridge development. 

An Ambassador Bridge representative could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Morouns have attempted four separate legal challenges against various agencies of the state of Michigan, the federal government and the Canadian government to stop the Gordie Howe Bridge. Another lawsuit was filed by a former state representative Fred Durhal  (D-Detroit).  Three of those lawsuits have been dismissed and attempts to appeal have been rejected.

The latest Michigan Supreme Court order may put an end to a fourth lawsuit, but the Morouns could potentially file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  

One lawsuit remains outstanding. The Morouns are seeking a right to appeal a State Court of Appeals decision that upheld the state's right to condemn property to make way for the massive project. In addition to the six-lane bridge, there will be a blocks-long customs plaza.

The cost to build the bridge and plazas, along with operating and maintaining the facilities for 30 year,  is $4.4 billion, or $5.7 billion in Canadian dollars. Construction alone is expected to cost $2.9 billion, or $3.8 billion.

Michigan and U.S. taxpayers are not paying for the project. The Canadian government decided in 2015 it would pay to build the bridge and customs plazas in the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian government aims to recoup the costs through tolls.

The bridge will be owned by the Canadian government and the state of Michigan, and built two miles from the Ambassador Bridge.

The Gordie Howe Bridge is slated to open in late 2024 and is expected to be one of the most vital pieces of infrastructure between the United States and Canada. Detroit and Windsor constitute the busiest trade crossing along the U.S.-Canada border, 

Canada is the largest market for U.S. exports, taking in $337 billion worth of American goods and services annually, according to the U.S State Department.  On average, 7,000 trucks daily cross the Detroit River. .

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN