A Windsor city councillor says a land swap deal between the City of Detroit and the owners of the Ambassador Bridge raises questions about the future of boarded-up houses owned by the company on the Canadian side of the bridge.
In an interview with CBC's Windsor Morning, Coun. Fabio Costante called for more "open communication, transparent communication," from the bridge's owners, the Canadian Transit Company and the Detroit International Bridge Company.
"I think the community wants to know what the intentions are of the bridge company," Costante said.
LISTEN: Coun. Fabio Costante joins Windsor Morning
The Detroit International Bridge Company has for decades owned a swath of residential properties just west of the bridge.
It obtained a permit in 2017 to twin the bridge – though it was unclear if the properties would play a role in the project.
The permit's five-year timeline has now expired, and bridge owner Matthew Moroun told reporters after the Detroit city council meeting Feb. 21 that he no longer plans to go ahead with it.
"The Gordie Howe is gonna be a great bridge, and the Ambassador Bridge will last for another 75 or 100 years, and I think that's all we need for the foreseeable future," he said, referring to the new span across the Detroit River, which is slated for completion in late 2024 or early 2025.
Costante said Moroun's statement didn't surprise him, given the lack of progress on the twinning project.
But he said the decision to abandon it raised questions for him about the company's other plans, notably whether it still intends to go ahead with a proposed inspection plaza in Windsor, and whether it plans to make use of all the properties it owns in Sandwich Towne.
"Why is the bridge company still holding on to the remaining boarded-up homes along Edison, Bloomfield, Rosedale, Brock, Felix, etc. when those homes were never captured within the permit?" he asked.
A call for more transparency
"They're no longer needed to satisfy what was once an intention of the bridge to build the connecting highway, which they've stated publicly is no longer of interest to them. … We all know the needs of affordable housing in our community. And so again, I would ask the bridge, what is their intention with those homes?"
The bridge company has reached out to several councillors and elected representatives in recent weeks, but Costante has yet to meet with its officials, he said.
Given the opportunity, he said he plans to ask his questions directly to them.
CBC News reached out to the Ambassador Bridge owners for comment, but did not receive a response.
Moroun, the chairman of the Detroit International Bridge Company, told CBC last March that he wanted to improve relations with the people of Windsor and Detroit after decades of conflict with his late father, Manuel, "Matty" Moroun.
Costante said if the company wants to build trust with residents, it needs to be more transparent.
When it comes to a possible new inspection plaza, Costante said he recognized that the project is subject to federal, rather than municipal, oversight.