A recent permit granted to the owner of the Ambassador Bridge to build a second span over the river between Windsor and Detroit was a victory for Matty Moroun, the wily American billionaire who has waged a fierce battle to block Ottawa’s construction of its own bridge.
The 90-year-old Moroun has “outmanoeuvred everybody,” said Alfie Morgan, business professor emeritus at the University of Windsor.
And according to some proponents of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, it could be a sign that the Canadian project is doomed.
“It’s not going to happen, and if it’s going to happen, it will be way, way in the distant future,” said Morgan.
The scuttling of the project would mean the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars already spent. The government has doled out an estimated $200 million to acquire and prepare the land it’ll need on the Canadian side and to buy up roughly 70 per cent of the needed properties on the Detroit side, according to the Windsor Star.
Moroun has been waging a two-pronged battle with the Canadian government — fighting in court against the government’s own plan for a bridge between Detroit and Windsor while fighting for a permit to build a new six-lane bridge alongside the four-lane, 87-year-old crossing he owns.
Permit comes with conditions
The fight for that permit has gone on for years, and while Moroun did finally receive approval, it comes with some conditions. The most significant is that Moroun must tear down his current bridge within five years of his new $1-billion span being built, preventing any plans he might have had to control 10 lanes of bridge crossing.
But by awarding that permit to Moroun, Canada seems to have signalled an “abandonment” of the Gordie Howe Bridge project, said Michael Belzer, an associate professor of economics who focuses on transportation economics at Detroit’s Wayne State University.
The permit approval prompted a rare expression of warm feeling from the Moroun family toward the Canadian government. Moroun’s son Matthew, an executive with the company, sent out a statement saying “we especially thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada for…