Gateway links to Ambassador Bridge to open to traffic Friday

Posted on September 21, 2012

After years of planning, litigation and construction, the long-delayed Gateway project at the Ambassador Bridge will finally open to traffic Friday morning.

Gateway is a $230-million project headed by the Michigan Department of Transportation to link the Ambassador Bridge to nearby interstates through a series of new ramps and roads. First conceived in the 1990s, Gateway was delayed for years by litigation with the Detroit International Bridge Co., owner of the Ambassador.

On Friday morning, Lt.Gov. Brian Calley and U.S. Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez will be among leaders opening the project.

Completion of construction means that MDOT will open the new freeway ramps from northbound and southbound I-75 and from eastbound I-96 leading to the toll plaza of the Ambassador.

This has not been a fast road to completion. The Ambassador Bridge was built in the 1920s and was never connected directly to the expressways that were built decades later, forcing cars and trucks onto local surface streets for a connection. In planning since the mid-’90s, the Gateway project was a joint effort between MDOT and DIBC, with each responsible for building key parts under a 2004 contract.

MDOT sued the bridge company in 2009, charging that it did not build its portion as agreed. After protracted legal proceedings, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards found the bridge company in civil contempt of court and, after the brief jailing of businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun, owner with his family of the bridge, and his top aide Dan Stamper, Edwards last March ordered MDOT to seize control of the bridge company’s portion of the project and complete it as soon as possible.

The Gateway project at the bridge is not to be confused with the Gateway shopping center project now taking shape near 8 Mile and Woodward.

John Gallagher, The Detroit Free Press