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Judge edges toward insurance co. takeover of bridge project

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio
Detroit International Bridge Company attorney Reginald Turner argues before Judge Prentis Edwards in Detroit.

A Wayne County judge says the insurance company that issued the bonds for construction known as the “Gateway Project” at the Ambassador Bridge should prepare to take a bigger role in the project.

That could mean taking over the project – which has been hamstrung by a dispute between the bridge company and the state.

Judge Prentis Edwards says he’s not confident the project will be completed by the January 2012 deadline he imposed. The Detroit International Bridge Company has been at odds with the state for months over disputed details of the project. The state says the bridge company has dragged its feet in fixing things that are out of compliance with the construction plan.

Tony Kratofil is the metro region engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation. He says he’s happy with the direction the judge seems to be heading:

"Sounds like he wants the same thing that we want, is to get the project done, so the public can benefit from all the investment they’ve put into it."

Judge Edwards says the project - which is intended to better connect the bridge with the interstate freeways on the Michigan side - was supposed to be completed in 2008. He ordered an attorney for insurance company Safeco to draft a plan for finishing the project in the next two weeks.

But bridge company president Dan Stamper says he doesn’t believe a takeover will happen.

"I see today as a good thing. He could have put me back in jail, held the company in contempt, and he didn’t do that. So I see today as a positive step."

The next hearing is set for late August.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Radio’s Director of Enterprise & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.