Bridge babble on TV

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Just caught on the Web Heather Catallo’s story from Friday for WXYZ/Channel 7 about the Ambassador Bridge Co. and its heavy-handed efforts to build a second span. This is, admittedly, a tough story for TV news because it contains so many threads. But Catallo and crew did a good job covering different aspects of the story. What tickled us thoroughly, though, was watching bridge company president Dan Stamper squirm in his seat when asked about the fence erected in Riverside Park to form a “buffer zone” just intended to protect the crucial span from terrorists following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Previously, Dancin’ Dan told this paper that the east (or downtown) side of the bridge was as well-protected as the west. We proved that claim to be false a few weeks back when intern Jacob-Hurwitz Goodman and I went out with a video camera and showed that there’s no equivalent to the Riverside Park fence – which the city says is illegal and wants removed from its property – on the east side.

Instead of claiming the existence of a fence that doesn’t exist, as he did with us, Stamper expressed surprise upon supposedly learning from Catallo that – yikes! – there isn’t any barrier on the bridge’s east side.

His reaction to this news flash is a perfect example of why Stamper and the bridge company owned by Grosse Pointe billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun have zero credibility.

Stamper and the company’s lawyers have been relentless in their insistence that the Ambassador — which carries about 25 percent of all the commercial truck traffic between Canada and the United States — is a prime target for terrorists interested is delivering a devastating economic blow.

Given that reality, how could the president of the company owning the bridge not have noticed at some point in the last eight years that only one side is protected by a fence?

Eight years! And in all that time, Stamper never noticed only one side of his company’s incredibly valuable bridge is protected by a fence! And he still didn’t realize it after we proved his claim to be untrue, both in print and on the Web.

After stammering pitifully for a few moments – you could see him desperately trying to dredge up some plausible answer – Stamper, finally, told Catallo, that she was, for the first time, “bringing it to my attention. We’ll deal with that.”

How stupid does he think we are?

Of course, he knew, just as he knows that completely blocking off access to the American side of the bridge is absolutely impossible because train tracks cross underneath it. But, it appears, Stamper would rather appear moronically incompetent than admit the truth.

And the truth is that the bridge company needs that swath of Riverside Park to build its second span — needs it so badly that the company has already lied during the (now-stalled) permitting process by falsely claiming to already own the land.

Stamper says his company doesn’t absolutely need that piece of parkland, even though a massive approach ramp has already been built to access the currently nonexistent new span. Getting around the Riverside Park problem, he says, is doable — for a cost of about $10 million.

But who knows if there’s any truth to that claim.

Like I said, this is a company that will say, and do, anything to get what it wants. And that includes completely sacrificing its credibility.

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