DETROIT-- Ambassador Bridge officials say they've scaled another hurdle in their plans to twin the current bridge with another six-lane span across the Detroit River.
The Windsor Star reports that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has issued a permit to the private bridge company which allows it to build a crossing until the end of 2008.
According to the newspaper, owner Matty Moroun can apply for extensions over the next five years and requires no other state approvals.
However, it's unlikely the MDEQ permit allows the bridge company to begin sticking shovels in the ground immediately as Moroun reportedly still needs federal and municipal approvals before construction can begin.
Detroit city planners have been critical of the Ambassador's twin span "enhancement project." A municipal report presented to city Councillors last fall arguably led to two resolutions against the bridge company. Detroit International Bridge Co. President Dan Stamper later complained the report was "misleading" and "inaccurate."
The Star story reports that a coalition of residents and business groups around the bridge entrance in Detroit will launch an appeal of the MDEQ permit.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Transport Canada officials say they are still conducting their own environmental assessment, which must be completed before construction can proceed.
Also according to the Star, the MDEQ permit was not contingent on residents' concerns or air quality testing. The application was approved after reviewing only the impact on the waterways or shoreline.
TodaysTrucking.com first obtained the bridge's original application to MDEQ last summer. The application stated the proposed structure would be a 102.5 ft-wide, 6,200 ft-long cable stayed toll bridge just west of the 77 year-old Ambassador.
The application also stated "the existing Ambassador Bridge will be closed for evaluation and repair, if found economically viable for future use."
Critics of the bridge company have frequently suggested the twin span is a tactic to undermine plans to build a separate bridge a few kilometers southwest of the Ambassador.
A binational government committee decided against the Ambassador's twinning plan in favor of an entirely new bridge downriver. It hopes to finalize plans and complete construction by 2013.
Ironically, while the MDEQ has greenlighted the Ambassador's project, Michigan transportation officials continue discussions with business people in the Delray neighborhood -- where the new bridge is being proposed -- about building and relocation timeframes.
-- with files from the Windsor Star