Injunction Sought Against Unnecessary New Detroit International Bridge Crossing

Leading Southwest Detroit Community Organizations and Detroit International Bridge Company Unite to Sue U.S. Department of Transportation Over Flawed Decision Making Process. Environmental Justice and National Environmental Policy Act Violated
2097

DETROIT, May 14, 2009 – Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LA SED), Citizens with Challenges, the Detroit Association of Black Organizations (DABO), MANA de Metro Detroit, the Mexican Patriotic Committee of Detroit, Detroiters for Progress and the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), owners of the Ambassador Bridge, today sued the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and James Steele, the Michigan Administrator of the FHWA, for failing to follow the federal government’s required decision making process and violating the National Environmental Policy Act, the Department of Transportation Act and other laws when the decision was made to arbitrarily and capriciously approve the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC), a new bridge to connect Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. In reaching the flawed decision, defendants purposely relied on erroneous traffic data, failed to examine alternative crossing locations and neglected to address environmental justice issues related to the new bridge’s effect on the low-income, minority Delray neighborhood of Southwest Detroit. The litigation was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

If built, this new bridge, costing $3 billion in taxpayer dollars, will inflict disproportionately high and adverse harm on the predominantly-minority residents of the Delray neighborhood of Southwest Detroit, waste $250 million of public funding already spent to directly connect the Ambassador Bridge to three interstate highways in Detroit even before that project is complete, and divert a significant majority of existing traffic away from the Ambassador Bridge, a Detroit landmark, to this new and unnecessary bridge. Plaintiffs are suing for injunctive and other relief.

Defendants’ decision for approving the Detroit River International Crossing bridge was based on outdated traffic projections that projected an increase in traffic between the Detroit-Windsor corridor through 2035. The widely-known reality, however, is that traffic has been decreasing since 1999 and by the end of 2008, actual truck traffic on the Ambassador Bridge was more than 33 percent lower and passenger traffic was 53 percent lower than the DRIC study projected. The DRIC is a taxpayer proposal sponsored by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Federal Highway Administration, Transport Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

“Throughout this process, the federal government deliberately failed to seriously consider alternative locations for the DRIC bridge,” said Carmen Munoz of the Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development. “Other locations were quickly dismissed once wealthy, politically active residents organized against development in their communities. Lacking the same political clout and money, Delray residents and business owners have been ignored and by default, Delray was selected for the DRIC bridge. Why would I want my taxpayer dollars spent on the DRIC bridge, which traffic projections show is unnecessary, when the owners of the Ambassador Bridge are going to be spending their own money to build a replacement span and improve their own crossing?”

“The environmental review of the DRIC was intentionally rushed.  Not enough time was spent studying and sharing with the public the full effects of the project on the environment and the Delray community,” said Honorable Otis Mathis, member of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education and director of Citizens with Challenges. “What we now know is that the DRIC would destroy a largely minority, low-income neighborhood and force the displacement of more than 400 homes, 43 businesses and numerous non-profit organizations and churches. Additionally, I have concerns about the air quality impact the DRIC would have on the students and staff at Southwest High School, which would be located below one of the bridge’s traffic ramps.

“Before the project was approved, I went to community meetings where officials working on the DRIC promised us new homes and recreation areas, which sounded great to us,” said Gloria Rocha of the Mexican Patriotic Committee of Detroit. “Once the project was approved, however, we didn’t see them anymore and worse, we haven’t seen a single move made to build the homes and parks that were promised. It appears we were deceived in the process and Delray residents, who will see their community destroyed, are going to suffer as a result,” Rocha said.

“If I had known then what I know now, I would have fought harder when in office to stop any plans for building the DRIC,” said Belda Garza, former member of the Michigan State Legislature and representative of MANA de Metro Detroit. “The DRIC bridge would be a waste of taxpayer dollars which are desperately needed for other worthy public works and community development projects.”

“The state’s approval process for this unnecessary multi-billion dollar taxpayer project has been a sham from the beginning. Information that did not support the Highway Administration’s goal was systematically ignored or dismissed. The result is that the DRIC bridge, if built, would needlessly destroy the Delray community,” said Dan Stamper, president of the Ambassador Bridge. “All evidence shows that the DRIC bridge is unnecessary and a massive waste of taxpayer money.  Moreover, it would destroy the value of the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project – a privately financed project – before it even opens.  Existing crossings, including the Ambassador Bridge, have sufficient capacity to handle traffic volumes for the foreseeable future,” Stamper said.

Available for Interviews

Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LA SED)
Carmen Munoz

Citizens with Challenges
Otis Mathis

Detroit Association of Black Organizations (DABO)
Rev. Horace Sheffield

MANA de Metro Detroit
Belda Garza

Mexican Patriotic Committee of Detroit
Gloria Rocha

Detroiters for Progress
Adolph Mongo

Detroit International Bridge Company
Dan Stamper

Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LA SED)
Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Inc. (LA SED) is the oldest nonprofit organization serving the Latino community in Southwest Detroit. Since 1969, LA SED has provided leadership through the development of programs addressing issues that affect the ethnic groups living in our community. www.lasedinc.org

Citizens with Challenges
Citizens with Challenges is a non-profit community organization dedicated to creating new leadership through education, social and physical development.

Detroit Association of Black Organizations (DABO)
DABO, the Detroit Federation of Black Organizations, is a federation of over 130 black, and non-black organizations whose primary purpose and mission is to empower, equip and to serve the organizations. www.dabodetroit.com

MANA de Metro Detroit
MANA de Metro Detroit is the local chapter of MANA, a National Latina Organization, dedicated to empowering Latinas through leadership development, community service and advocacy. www.hermana.org

Mexican Patriotic Committee of Detroit
Established in the 1900s by a group of Mexican immigrants in Southwest Detroit, the Mexican Patriotic Committee of Detroit promotes, educates and preserves the Mexican culture and provides support to its youth through performances, festivals, exhibitions and educational services.

Detroiters for Progress
Specifically founded to address the issues surrounding construction of a new border crossing in Southwest Detroit, Detroiters for Progress gives a voice to those residents of the Delray and Southwest Detroit communities who have been left out of the Detroit River International Crossing.

Detroit International Bridge Company
The Detroit International Bridge Company owns the Ambassador Bridge, which stands as an international symbol and link between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.  The Ambassador Bridge is the nation’s number one border crossing, handling 26 percent of trade between the US and Canada. Built in 1929 by private funds, the Ambassador Bridge was established with unique obligations and rights to meet the needs of commerce and trade by Canada, Great Britain and the United States. The Detroit International Bridge Company believes in the development and wellness of the local community and continues to support a variety of local organizations, charities and universities. www.ambassadorbridge.com

Facebook Comments