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Billionaire’s continuous fight to stop Gordie Howe Bridge construction

Posted 4/16/2021
What the hell is the Gordie Howe international Bridge you might ask?

In a nutshell, it’s capitalism at work and at it’s finest. It came to light because of USMCA. Three countries are involved (two directly) and there’s a lot of political posturing and agendas hard at work.

It’s the one of the largest bi-national construction projects in North American history.
As you can imagine, with BILLIONS of dollars at stake, there are a lot of people who want to gorge on that government trough. There are accusations of kickbacks, extortion, threats to national security, discrimination and pretty well any type of underhandedness imaginable.

According to some reports, it’s considered one of the world’s most politically charged yet extensive and innovative infrastructure plans.
There are influential political parties using “Homeland Security” concerns as a way to stop this project.  In conjunction with this, the same parties use political tactics and use “discrimination” or “oppressing minorities” as an argument.

Now it appears that some alleged unbiased tree hugging groups seem to be on the payroll of those opposed to it along with others – but when you dig deeper you realize it’s the same group opposing it.

This type of intrigue is usually reserved for mystery novels. What’s this about you might ask?

It’s the Gordie Howe International Brige project. Once known as Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) or the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). Over 10 years in planning, currently under construction and not expected to be completed before 2024.

This Canadian peninsula dissects into the centre of the US heartland. It’s the only place where Canada is DUE South of the lower-48 US states. As a result, it’s a natural gateway to interstate and international commercial traffic. Every day, approximately $307 million dollars in commodities cross this border point. This amounts to over $120 BILLION in commodity traffic per year. The commodities cut across Canada and transit from the US midwest to the US northeast on their way to the Atlantic shipping ports. The nearest crossing is hundreds of miles away and adds hours to the shipping time.

Taxation and import duties aside, the toll traffic alone amounts to millions of dollars per day.

Now here’s the intrigue: If you controlled the crossing as a monopoly and was making millions of dollars in revenue per day, you would do whatever it takes to delay this project. You would put hurdles in place and use all the financial resources at your disposal to change the public perception.

That’s exactly what’s happening.

There are currently four crossings that span the Detroit river. There is a train tunnel, a truck ferry, an automotive tunnel (with very little commercial traffic) and what the locals call “The Bridge”. It’s a privately owned structure owned by a Michigan-based trucking company billionaire. The Ambassador Bridge has been part of the Detroit river landscape since 1929. Surprisingly, not much has changed across that river since 1930. For over 80 years, NOTHING has changed across this river. I should correct myself and say traffic patterns have changed.
 Unfortunately while the US side connects relatively easily to the Interstate highway system, on the Canadian side, the bridge was built with no real infrastructure in place. As Windsor, (the city on the Canadian side) expanded, the traffic was moved onto city streets that got progressively busier and slower. As the delay increased it lengthened, it had no choice but to extend onto the bridge itself. Tie this in with the border inspection which became more extensive after 9/11 and you are left with a recipe for disaster. In the early years of the new millennium, the border crossing delays could take six hours.

It was making sense for ground shippers to start taking the extra hundred miles detour to bypass the traffic or simply change their shipping practices. Some reverted to air shipments while others began shipping by rail. This international shipping brought millions of dollars to the local economies. It was obvious and apparent to everyone that something needed to be done. The area was in an economic slump already and both sides of the bridge could not endure the loss of shipping revenue. This could result in the additional loss of local jobs. It was estimated that over 100,000 citizens would be further impacted directly or indirectly by this downturn.
While this is taking place, the existing bridge owner hoped to use this downturn in his favour. He quietly increased toll charges citing the considerable loss of traffic. He never acknowledged that his antiquated bridge was at the root of the issue. He argues at public hearings that there is no need for a new crossing. He manipulates the Michigan legislature and used underhanded tactics to have Proposition 6 added to the 2012 election ballot in Michigan. This proposal would have forced a public hearing for any new bridge construction in the state of Michigan. In order to get the question on the ballot in the first place, he needed to gather the signature of 300,000 Michigan residents. There have been accusations that he paid or falsified signatures required to have the question added to the ballot. There were considerable radio and television campaigns in place and a few Facebook sites paid for and devoted by Maroun to oppose the new bridge. When the proposal was promptly defeated, the Facebook sites promptly removed. Go figure.
US federal state and local governments along with the Canadian federal and provincial governments realized the importance of this crossing and not only completed feasibility plans to add a new crossing over the river, but they began construction of a new multi-lane highway on the Canadian side to connect to the new proposed span. It’s obvious to everyone that a new processing facility is required on both sides of the border. This would ensure that traffic continues to flow efficiently. The bridge owner argues that the delicate state of Michigan's economy cannot support this multi-billion dollar initiative and starts yet another campaign to detract or delay the construction. Canada retorts with an offer to pay for the entire bridge and simply collect the tolls as repayment. Moroun retorts again with "bridge owned by foreigners".
 He argues in court that a new crossing isn’t needed since traffic is reportedly down and there isn’t enough traffic to warrant a new crossing. With his wealth, he hires battalions of lawyers on both sides of the border to delay the studies and do what whatever is required to delay the contruction. Since the defeat of Proposition 6 in the Michigan ballot in November 2012, Maroun now argues that the new bridge foundations are at risk because of soil instability due to the proximity of salt mines. The existing 85-year old bridge generates 100s of million of dollars of profit for the owner. The existing bridge is in such a state of disrepair, there is an expectation that Moroun will use this to his advantage arguing that it's a valuable commericial link. I wouldn't be surprise to hear that he might try to get the legislators to pay for the repairs! We'll see.

It's intersting to note that this is the only privately owned crossing along the Canadian/US border and the only privately owned international bridge in the world!

He quietly bought up properties on the Canadian side and expropriates a Detroit-city park, posts “No Trespassing” signs and begins to build approaches for a new bridge. A new bridge? This doesn’t make any sense. He argues that a new span isn’t needed then starts construction without a hearing? Luckily his tactics are noted by various governments and recently the US Coast guard disallowed any further construction without further site survey and testing. What was particularly distressing is that the bridge owner actually hired armed guards to keep local residents from using the public park that he took control over. He was hoping to show the City of Detroit that the land wasn’t used anyway and isn’t properly maintained. After almost NINE years, a judge ordered that he vacate the property known as "Riverside Park"

As construction got underway and as late as 2018, the current bridge owner continues to go to court in an attempt to stop construction.

On the US side of his new approach he illegally builds a duty free shop and a gas station (selling gas well below retail) which is subsequently ordered to be dismantled by a US federal judge. The bridge owner sues citing discrimination.

The new bridge construction is underway and once completed in 2024, completely takes the Ambassador bridge out of the equation. It includes a new six lane span with massive truck processing facilities and direct links to the US and Canadian highway systems.

The bridge owner isn’t done yet. He argues that the new project cuts through “environmentally sensitive” areas on the Canadian side. An environmental group files a complaint petition the exact same day as the bridge owner. The group claim that they are acting alone but the fact that the complaint was filed the same day as the bridge owners’ bring completely different optics to the table.

I will leave it to you to decide. If you want to keep up to date with the progress of construction check out this website.

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