The Ambassador Bridge Company faces contempt charges over the design of a new bridge plaza on the American side of the Windsor-Detroit border. ((Canadian Press))

The Ambassador Bridge company was back in court Thursday facing contempt charges over its refusal to tear down a new plaza on the U.S. side of the Windsor, Ont.-Detroit border.

In February, Judge Prentis Edwards ordered the bridge company to remove its duty-free gas station and toll booths so interstate highways can be joined directly to the bridge — a directive the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has been demanding of the privately owned bridge for months.

MDOT contends the private company that owns the bridge built the plaza at ground level, which was not part of the agreed-to design. The company tried unsuccessfully to appeal Edwards's decision at the federal level. Tearing down and rebuilding could cost the bridge company millions of dollars. 

The company has been battling with the U.S. government over the construction of a second Windsor-Detroit bridge. 

It has successfully lobbied the Michigan Senate to stall the approval of the proposed international crossing, which has been rubber-stamped by the Michigan House of Representatives, the Ontario government and the Canadian government.


MDOT says it won't connect new interstate roads joining traffic to the Ambassador Bridge until it tears down a duty-free plaza in Detroit, Michigan. ((CBC News))

The bridge company went before Edwards again on Wednesday, and officials remained confident that things would turn out differently this time.

"I think the evidence is coming out clear enough for everybody to understand," said bridge company spokesman Dan Stamper. "In a sense, it may be the first time that's happened."

"It is a breach-of-contract case," said MDOT spokesman Victor Judnic. "And we've won at every level, and hoping to follow through that they build what we in the community had agreed to build."

Traffic tie-ups

Lawyers for the bridge company argued the state was aware of the company's plans, and even agreed to the design, but the state sees things differently. 

MDOT said trucks and cars have to navigate through a maze of city streets to get to the bridge, and that's not acceptable.

"If there is such a favourable ruling ... fairly quickly, the traffic would not have to flow in such a convoluted manner as it does today," said Judnic.

Roads designed to link traffic to the bridge are sitting idle. The U.S. government said it's not going to fulfil its part of the agreement until the Ambassador Bridge does the same.