DETROIT, June 23, 2009 – Statement of Dan Stamper, President, Detroit International Bridge Company.
Good morning and thank you for joining us today. I have a brief statement and will answer your questions before we take a tour up the ramp. The Detroit International Bridge Co has completed 95% of our portion of the Gateway Project.
- Reconfigured inbound auto
- New entrance to the U.S. for autos and connection for ramps to freeway
- New connection of 21st Street
- New relocated Duty-Free Store
- New relocated Duty-Free Fuel Services
- New ramp connections from freeway to Bridge
- New outbound Toll Plaza
- New outbound Customs Inspection area
- Separation of trucks and autos for Duty-Free and Fuel
The Ambassador Bridge entered into a partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation in the mid-1990s intended to improve the efficiency of the Ambassador trade corridor. This agreement was to complete the Gateway Project to develop infrastructure to improve traffic connections to the Ambassador Bridge and accommodate a replacement span to the 80-year-old structure. Part of the Project includes building a new plaza and ramps to connect the Ambassador Bridge to I-75, I-96 and I-94. We are excited about this joint endeavor and have already invested $500 million to make this a success.
All of us at the Ambassador Bridge have been working very hard to make sure that the Gateway Project will benefit all travelers between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, facilitate trade, reflect the finest construction, and be completed on time and on budget.
We are here today, however, because as the Project nears completion, obstacles created deliberately by MDOT are preventing passenger traffic and commerce from using the new roadways and are late in removing traffic from city streets. Michiganders deserve to know what’s going on.
Beginning earlier this month, MDOT has dumped approximately ten thousand TONS of construction waste on the West Grand Boulevard ramp (East Service Drive); which stretches for almost a QUARTER MILE. (POINT TO DEBRIS) DIBC has had this debris analyzed. We thought it was dirt or clay or construction debris — but no, it is only retaliation. On top of that, MDOT is also storing heavy equipment on the other inbound MDOT ramp, rendering that unusable. Both of these ramps were supposed to be in operation by December 2008. In comparison, DIBC’s access ramps were completed in January 2009 and have been operating since April first.
(Photos are available.)
So what’s going on here?
I guess the last straw to MDOT and the state was when six leading Detroit community organizations and DIBC filed an environmental justice lawsuit against the Department of Transportation on May 15 challenging the Detroit River International Crossing study. Just over two weeks later, in what smacks of nothing less than retaliation, the tons of waste suddenly began to appear. Instead of doing all possible to open the ramps, MDOT was slowing them down.
Despite our attempts to find out what’s happening and to see how we can help open the ramps, we’ve been stonewalled. And who bears the burden of this seemingly childish action? It’s the thousands of commuters and businesses who rely daily on a speedy crossing of the bridge and those in Southwest Detroit who needlessly have to endure trucks driving through their neighborhoods. And what about all Michiganders who will now have to pay with their tax dollars for the totally needless and wasteful cleanup of these 100 truckloads of junk? Why would anyone want to or need to spend that money when we desperately need those funds for jobs, police, education and road work in Detroit and in other parts of our state? To us this seems like an intentional obstruction of commerce and efficiency at the border crossing.
Let me be candid, we had expected that the elected officials representing this community would have been up-in-arms at this needless and deliberate delay and that we could stay on the sidelines on this one. The blaring silence of Representative Talib and others in not calling for MDOT to straighten out this mess is notable. Instead of their action, we are confronted with unfortunate attempts to throw stones at the Ambassador Bridge.
We are partners with MDOT in this important project and we want to be good partners. Disputes over the interpretation of diagrams or changes in detail are part of all large construction jobs. That’s the reason why our agreement has an arbitration clause. MDOT though prefers finger-pointing and inaccuracy mongering. They’ve been using a strategy of creating confusion and misleading the Southwest Detroit community, the City of Detroit, the legislature, and even the Coast Guard about what the Bridge is or isn’t doing.
Frankly, it’s disheartening for us to have MDOT as a partner in the vital Gateway Project while they simultaneously kick us as they partner with Canada on the DRIC.
We were compelled to request arbitration after our discussions with MDOT over several open issues became meaningless and they walked out on a meeting. MDOT still hasn’t responded to our May 20th request. We were then compelled to file suit against MDOT to resolve all outstanding issues. We believe in the judicial system and will rely on letting an impartial arbitrator and judge rule on any disputes. Nevertheless, of course we will continue to try and find solutions with MDOT on all the open issues and move ahead together, as partners.
We want to build a better Michigan and better Ambassador Bridge Crossing. We are investing $1 billion in private funds to build a replacement span for our 80–year old bridge. That will create 4,000 jobs in the first year and 20,000 jobs over the next two decades. If MDOT and the Governor are serious about our partnership the first thing they can do is stop throwing dirt and instead, start tomorrow and clean up the ten thousand ton mess that was dropped on the Project. All of us will be better for it.
This wall of debris is what you get when a department like MDOT has one foot in the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Partnership and then puts the other foot in a Canadian Partnership.
Thank you and I’ll take your questions.
(After questions) Please join me on the ramp to see what ten thousand tons of garbage looks like.