Not a good ambassador

Owner of famous Detroit bridge thrown in jail for failure to complete portion of Gateway project

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Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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The Gateway Project is not opening any doors for Manuel "Matty" Moroun. In fact, it has done nothing but close the one door to his jail cell.

Last week, a judge found Moroun, owner of the Detroit International Bridge Co., and president Dan Stamper in contempt of court after failing to complete DIBC's half of the Gateway Project, which is supposed to alleviate truck-traffic congestion on local streets around the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. DIBC was ordered to complete construction once and for all by November 2011. When that didn't happen, Moroun was shown the door--to the Wayne County Jail.

This is the first I have heard of someone being put behind bars for failure to complete a project. I'm sure the thought was to force DIBC to finish what it agreed to do so the neighborhood that surrounds the Ambassador Bridge could sleep in peace. However, forcing Moroun and Stamper to wear a jumpsuit is only costing taxpayers--including the ones which live on the truck-infested routes. Is it not?

The most logical action to take here is a traditional one. They should have hit DIBC with some serious fines for failure to comply. If that was done, then they should have increased the amount of the disincentives. I just do not understand what throwing a bridge owner in jail does to solve the problem.

Of course, the Michigan state legislature could have really handcuffed DIBC financially by agreeing to fund a second bridge leading in and out of Canada. The lawmakers failed to strike a deal, and the Gateway Project failed to get off the ground. So do we throw the politicians in jail, too?

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