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Through years of bickering over Canada’s planned new bridge between Windsor and Detroit, attention has inevitably settled on Manuel (Matty) Moroun, the pugnacious owner of the private Ambassador Bridge.
Forbes magazine has called the 91-year-old – who fought long and hard to block the Canadian government-funded span – the “troll under the bridge.”
But a new analysis from a respected trade expert – albeit funded by Moroun’s company – suggests such personality questions have overshadowed a more basic issue.
The federal project is an epic waste of money that will cost Canadian taxpayers up to $180 million a year for decades, when a far-cheaper, private-sector alternative is already in the works, says the study by Eric Miller, a global fellow at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center.
Moroun’s company plans to build a replacement of its existing span at no cost to government.
“This looks like a path of financial folly,” said Miller, a former vice president of the Business Council of Canada and trade official at Canada’s Washington embassy.
“In this age of fiscal restraint, you’ve got an investor who’s willing to pay for the whole bridge,” he said in an interview. “This feels like high school: ‘We don’t like (the Ambassador’s owners) so we’re not going to do anything with them.’”
But an academic who has followed the bridge saga closely dismissed the report as paid promotion of Moroun’s interests, and said it ignores the national importance of Canada owning a route across the Detroit River.
“This is too strategic to leave under the control of one individual, who is not even Canadian,” said Alfie Morgan, a University of Windsor professor emeritus of business. “What is the price of national control over such a strategic asset?”
Mark Butler, spokesman for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority that manages the project, said studies show the Canadian structure will be cost-effective, and growth in traffic will make two new, wider bridges a necessity.
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