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Detroit's Border Baron Thwarted

Manuel "Matty" Moroun is seen during a news conference in Warren, Mich. in 2010

Photograph by Carlos Osorio/AP Photo

Manuel "Matty" Moroun is seen during a news conference in Warren, Mich. in 2010

(Updates with a comment from Mickey Blashfield)

Among the unhappy billionaires today is Matty Moroun, the 85-year-old owner of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. His Detroit International Bridge Co. spent more than $30 million on a ballot initiative that failed. The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, is the busiest commercial crossing in North America. It’s also the only major border crossing that’s privately owned. Moroun’s company collects $156,000 a day in tolls.

Ever since early 2011, when Governor Rick Snyder proposed building another bridge that would compete with the Ambassador, the Moroun family has tried to stop it with lawsuits and lobbying. (I wrote about their efforts here.)

In mid-April, Moroun and his son Matt set up a committee called The People Should Decide that managed to place an amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. The amendment would have required voter approval of any new international bridge or tunnel backed by Michigan. Yesterday the people decided to reject it.

“The biggest problem for the government bridge is not the Ambassador Bridge, it’s the facts. And last night’s election results don’t change the fact that this is a deeply flawed project,” Mickey Blashfield, Director of The People Should Decide Ballot Committee, said via email.

Berfield is a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. Follow her on Twitter @susanberfield.

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