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Thursday, Oct 11, 2007, 8:18 pm

Bridge to D-town

By Adam Doster

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I love catching stories about Detroit! Tonight, the Times is reporting on the trouble brewing over the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest commercial border crossing in North America. This connector between SE Michigan and gamble-when-you're-19 Windsor is pretty unique. More than $122 billion in goods roll over this baby a year, so it's a big deal, and it's privately owned.

In a remarkable arrangement for a crossing so major, Manuel J. Moroun, a reclusive billionaire from Detroit’s suburbs who oversees a trucking empire, owns the bridge, one of only two privately owned bridges along the entire northern border of the United States and by far the most economically significant privately owned bridge in the nation.

Considering that the amount of traffic may require the construction of a second, $1 billion crossing, that little fact (rightfully) freaks people out.

"This man is making billions of dollars on that bridge.” said Raymond E. Basham, a Michigan state senator and a Democrat, who said that only a public bridge could ensure the structural inspections and domestic security needed. “When it comes to dollars and cents, there is every incentive for him not to tell us if something is wrong. We have an obligation for the safety of people.”

The obvious conclusion is to assess the traffic patterns and finance a second bride publicly if necessary, right? Well in cash-strapped Michigan, that's not likely to fly. Plus, residents of SW Detroit are deservedly pissed because more construction would knock down dozens of homes and businesses and add to the already high pollution levels on that side of town.

“Who needs another?” said Victor Abla, whose window in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood of Hubbard Farms looks out on the Ambassador Bridge. “With trucks backed up on the bridge that’s already here, the pollution is horrible in my neighborhood, and the asthma rates are sky high.”

I'm not sure how this will all play put, but if I was a betting man, I'd throw it all on Moroun making out just fine and the Detroiters getting screwed per usual. Moroun, however, would make for a great profile if an intrepid reporter could ever gain access.

Read the whole thing here.

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.

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