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Sneak Peek of New MI Bridge Revealed

Friday, December 4, 2015

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Residents of Detroit, MI, and Windsor, Ontario, are beginning to look forward to the new Gordie Howe International Bridge as new details of its design are revealed.

Of the designs under consideration, the bridge is expected to become a landmark in Detroit as its height and length make it a significant structure among the existing architectural icons in the city.

A Landmark in the Making

Spanning the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will likely rival the height of Detroit’s tallest building and become the fifth longest bridge in North America.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), the nonprofit managing the procurement process for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new bridge, recently revealed details of the construction plans, the Detroit Free Press reported.

According to the WDBA, two designs are under consideration: a suspension bridge like the nearby privately owned Ambassador Bridge or a cable-stayed bridge.

The bridge’s towers are expected to rise to a height of 750 feet, making it just taller than the city’s Renaissance Center, which tops out at 740 feet. At about 150 feet above the water surface, the bridge deck will be high enough to allow passage of ships beneath it.

The six-lane bridge will contain three Canada-bound lanes and three U.S.-bound lanes over the Detroit River. It will have a clear span of 2,788 feet across the river with no piers in the water. Two approach bridges (one on each side) will connect the main span to the Canadian Port of Entry and the U.S. Port of Entry.

The bridge and its approaches will span about two miles, making it one of the top five longest bridges on the continent. (The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans, LA, tops the list as the longest continuous bridge passing over water.)

The WDBA also revealed that the bridge construction will require approximately half a million tons of concrete, about 22,000 tons of steel (which is specced to be made in the U.S. or Canada) and almost 5,000 tons of bridge cables.

The final design will be selected at the discretion of the architectural, engineering and construction team which secures the bid. The candidates have been narrowed down to six, and the winning firm will be announced in 2016.

Preliminary Work Underway

According to the WDBA, the bridge project was first envisioned in 2008, after a traffic study begun in in 2000, to provide a safe, efficient and secure end-to-end border crossing system directly connecting Highway 401 in Windsor and I-75 in Detroit. It was officially given the green light in the U.S. in April 2013.

WDBA via Instagram

Among the Early Works underway on the Canadian side of the bridge project, contractors are working on the wick drain installation.

The full project includes construction of the bridge, the Canadian Port of Entry, the U.S. Port of Entry and the Michigan Interchange.

Work has already begun on the Windsor side, with site preparation that the WDBA calls “Early Works” activities to prepare the Canadian Port of Entry. Amico Infrastructures Inc. of Oldcastle, Ontario was selected as contractor for this work, which includes construction of a perimeter access road; utility relocation; the placement of fill, grading and drainage; and construction of an “exclusion fence” to protect wildlife and at-risk species and minimize impact on nearby properties.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is working to buy property on the Detroit side to make room for the approaches and customs plaza on the U.S. side. According to the Free Press, this process of buying the needed land here could take up to three years.

At this time, the cost of construction is estimated to fall between $1 billion and $2.2 billion. The WDBA will be responsible for project oversight, including the actual construction and operation of the new crossing, which will be constructed through a public-private partnership (P3) approach. As the operator of the new bridge, the WDBA will set and collect all tolls.

The bridge is expected to open in 2020.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bridges; Design; Design build; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management

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