WASHINGTON (CN) – The owners of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, say Canada’s plan to build another international bridge violates a 1909 treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The plaintiffs, Detroit International Bridge Co. and the Canadian Transit Co., have owned rights to collect tolls from the bridge since the 1920s, and Canada has been bitter and jealous ever since, according to the federal complaint.
Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC) and the Canadian Transit Co. (CTC) say both nations sought their private help to build the bridge in the 1920s, and an agreement was drafted giving the two companies exclusive rights to operate and collect tolls from the bridge.
Since then, they say, Canada has repeatedly tried to wrest the toll revenue from them.
The companies say they’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance and upgrades, and now Canada is conspiring with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to build a new bridge that would make the Ambassador obsolete.
They say Canada and the United States – both named as defendants – agreed to an expansion plan for the Ambassador Bridge, but Canada backed out of its promise to contribute $300 million in an effort to delay DIBC and CTC from adding a new span and other improvements.
The companies say the defendant U.S. Coast Guard refuses to process their application for environmental approval and a bridge permit because of U.S. and Canadian opposition.
“Despite the substantial expenditure of U.S. taxpayers’ funds in reliance on Canada’s reciprocal promise, despite Congress’s expressed intention to support the Ambassador Bridge crossing, and despite the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of protecting the legal rights and legitimate expectations of American investors abroad, FHWA has unlawfully cooperated with, acted in concert with, aided and conspired with Canada in its scheme to undermine plaintiffs’ property rights,” the two companies say.
The plans for the new bridge will put a new set of tollbooths right up against the U.S.-side tollbooths bridge while the Canadian side of the new bridge will sit less than 2 miles from the Ambassador.
Canada says the new bridge will ease traffic congestion, but DIBC and CTC say that problem could have been addressed with the $300 million offered by the Canadian government for the Ambassador expansion.
The companies say Canada and the United States violated the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and the 1927 contract giving DIBC and CTC rights to the tolls.
They sued suing Canada, the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Highway Administration. They seek an injunction preventing the construction of the new bridge, and unspecified damages.
The bridge company plaintiffs are represented by John Missing with Debevoise Plimpton.