No Injunction for Owners of Ambassador Bridge

     WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge refused to enjoin plans for a new public bridge on the Detroit River so that a private entity may expand its 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge.
     Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC) and the Canadian Transit Co. (CTC), have owned rights to collect tolls from the Ambassador, which connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, since the 1920s. They say Canada has been bitter and jealous ever since.
     Despite their private funding, the companies still need permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to build a new span alongside the Ambassador. The companies made such a request for a navigational permit 10 years ago to create a twin span for commuters to use while they perform maintenance construction on the existing bridge.
     With the Coast Guard dragging its feet on that permit request, the Ambassador owners filed suit in 2010 against the U.S. and Canadian governments.
     Last year, the plaintiffs amended their complaint as the Coast Guard seemed poised to approve a government-owned competing bridge, the New International Trade Crossing/Detroit River International Crossing. Pronounced Nitsy-Drick, the bridge is described in the court record by the abbreviation NITC/DRIC.
     Citing "lack of irreparable harm," U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer refused last week to enjoin the Coast Guard from issuing the competing bridge a navigational permit.
     "Upon close examination, the court finds that DIBC's contentions are unduly speculative and, therefore, insufficient to justify preliminary injunctive relief," the 41-page ruling states. "DIBC's inability to obtain private capital if a government bridge is perceived to be ahead of it presents a real and imminent harm, but the degree of this harm is not clear." (Emphasis in original.)
     But the record simply does not support "whether the Coast Guard will issue a navigational permit to the NITC/DRIC," Collyer added.
     "The Coast Guard has not issued a decision on the NITC/DRIC permit application, and DIBC knows neither the substance nor the result of any forthcoming recommendation," she continued.
     "Moreover, DIBC offers no evidence that a navigational permit would make the construction of the NITC/DRIC inevitable or imminent. Both the Twin Span and the NITC/DRIC are embroiled in significant legislative maneuvering and funding negotiations that must be resolved before construction of their respective bridges can begin. ... Future legal or practical issues unrelated to actual construction of the NITC/DRIC are foreseeable, and these issues could lead the Coast Guard to doubt whether the state of Michigan can acquire the necessary property rights. Such doubt and speculation significantly undermine DIBC's claim of irreparable harm."
     Collyer also dismissed a count of the second amended complaint that characterizes the Coast Guard's failure to issue a navigational permit for the Twin Span as arbitrary and capricious.
     The Coast Guard is within its rights in not acting on the application until a dispute over an air rights easement over a portion of Riverside Park is resolved, she said.
     That area has been fenced off as protection against terrorism, but DIBC insists that it has the rights to build the Twin Span in that area.
     The plaintiffs have in the meantime filed a third amended complaint.