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Why Billionaire Matty Moroun Is One of the Worst Corporate Citizens Ever

A Michigan billionaire stands in the way of a new bridge needed to kickstart Detroit's deteriorated economy.

Michigan's economic future is at stake right now, in the state Senate. If you think times are bad, imagine what they'd be without the billions in trade that move across the Detroit River every year.

The vast majority of it moves across the Ambassador Bridge, which was built in 1929, is wearing out, and is not adequate for today's monster trucks and the vast payloads they carry. Heavy tractor-trailers can't go through the tunnel. There is essentially no backup route other than Port Huron or Buffalo, and our trade transportation system is being held hostage by one man, an arrogant billionaire named Manuel Moroun.

Now, we have the best chance ever to fix this. Everybody who understands this issue knows that we need to build a new bridge — and we have a golden opportunity to do so.

Meet the proposed new Detroit River International River Crossing, DRIC for short, to be built two miles downriver from the Ambassador. DRIC would be jointly owned by the United States and Canada, funded partly by private investors, and enable us to meet the trade, transportation and security issues of this century.

The United States wants this bridge. The government of Canada needs it. Republicans like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson are behind it. So are the Ford Motor Co. and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. In Ohio, where the economy is closely linked to Michigan and Canada, the GOP-controlled state Senate passed a resolution supporting DRIC — unanimously.

Democrats like Gov. Jennifer Granholm want the bridge. So does state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a young Muslim woman who represents the area that also includes the Ambassador Bridge. The Detroit News supports it; so, at long last, does the Free Press.

Michigan wouldn't even have to pay a cent. Knowing how cash-strapped and divided our state government now is, Canada made an astounding offer last month: They'll pay our share of the start-up costs needed, as much as $550 million. Later, when the DRIC bridge is up and running, they'll get it back out of the tolls.

What's more, experts say building the DRIC could create as many as 10,000 construction jobs. Voting for this should be the easiest decision our term-limited state legislators ever will have to make. Except for one thing. One man opposes the bridge. Manuel "Matty" Moroun, a short, squat, octogenarian billionaire. After arguing for years that a new span wasn't needed, Matty abruptly changed his mind and said he would build a new bridge.

Right next, that is, to his old one.

Yet Canada has made it clear they won't allow him to do that. They won't give him the permits. Nor, for that matter, will the United States — the U.S. Coast Guard rejected his application last March. Indeed, two bridges in the same place would be an environmental, security and highway-clogging disaster.

This seems to have thrown Moroun into a desperate frenzy. He clearly cannot bear the thought of losing his monopoly. What makes this so puzzling is why he should care. Nobody is talking about taking the Ambassador Bridge away from him. What in hell does Matty have to fear? Moroun is worth much more than a billion dollars. He has only one son, and, to put it gently and delicately, the Old Man is far from immortal.

He turns 83 this month. That means that even if they started the DRIC tomorrow, Matty might easily be dirt-napping before the damn thing is done years from now. My guess is that he's banking that he can keep his evil self going, as he always has, through greed and the excitement of filing lawsuits and fighting for more power and money.

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