Foes of new bridge won’t be heard by U.S. Supreme Court

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will not review a June appeals court decision concerning a new Detroit-Windsor bridge, removing another hurdle to the publicly financed span’s scheduled completion in five years.

Without comment, the Supreme Court let stand a U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of the Delray neighborhood in Detroit as the preferred location for the U.S. side of a new bridge crossing to Canada. The bridge foes said the federal agency violated the National Environmental Protection Act, Administrative Procedures Act, principles of environmental justice and other federal laws.

Detroit U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn dismissed in 2012 the lawsuit by the Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Citizens With Challenges, Detroit Association of Black Organizations and other community groups — along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the privately held Ambassador Bridge and wants to build one next to it.

The court’s decision comes five days after Canada and the United States reached a deal in which Canada will put up the hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a U.S. Customs plaza at the New International Trade Crossing and be repaid through tolls. The $2.1 billion bridge is to be two miles from the Ambassador Bridge and could open as early as 2020.

“This is latest round of great news on this critical infrastructure project,” said Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman to Gov. Rick Snyder, who has promoted the bridge project. “The decision reaffirms the exhaustive work and public transparency that went into siting decisions. It’s good news for the community, city, state, region and country and their future prosperity.”

A panel of the appeals court wrote in June that the federal agency used a “a lengthy, reasoned process based on an objective analysis subject to public scrutiny throughout.” The panel also rejected the contention the United States yielded to Canada’s opposition to adding a second span to the Ambassador Bridge, writing the United States did not “rubber stamp” the decision.

Mickey Blashfield, director of governmental relations for the Ambassador Bridge, last year criticized the appeals court ruling. He did not have a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

The highway administration “refused to consider the Ambassador Bridge Twin Span even though it was the highest ranked alternative in most of the environmental tests the (agency) was required to apply. The (agency) supposedly based its decision on the unsupported claim that Canada objected to the environmental impacts the Twin Span would have in Canada, despite no evidence of any such impact,” Blashfield said.

In June, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a required permit for a publicly owned bridge from Detroit to Canada — clearing another key hurdle in the high-profile project. A federal judge in Washington, also in June, rejected a legal motion to force the Coast Guard to issue a permit to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun for his proposed six-lane span alongside the Ambassador Bridge.

Moroun’s bridge company has been fighting efforts by the state of Michigan and the Canadian government to build the bridge it insists will harm the Ambassador’s business. In court filings, the company argued it needs to build a second span across the Detroit River to handle traffic while it repairs the Ambassador so it can compete with the publicly financed bridge.

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