Construction on the Gordie Howe Bridge Kicks Off
Construction work on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, crossing from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, kicked off at a ceremony on Friday (Oct. 5), attended by both Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Both Snyder and Trudeau agreed that they would like to see the bridge completed more quickly than its current slated finish date of 2024, a date that is two years later than original estimates.
In 2012, Snyder worked out a deal with Canada to construct a new bridge that would provide an additional crossing between Detroit and Windsor.
Manuel “Matty” Moroun's privately owned Ambassador Bridge, the only bridge between the two cities, is currently the busiest crossing between Canada and the U.S. in terms of trade volume, and the new bridge would be built just miles away from the Ambassador. Moroun has spent years fighting the Howe plan, attempting to make a case that the international deal is null and void because it did not involve the state legislature's approval.
Moroun has brought several lawsuits against the project in the past, but planning continued to move ahead. In early July, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority announced that the international consortium Bridging North America—composed of ACS Infrastructure Canada, Dragados Canada, Fluor Corporation, and AECOM—was its "preferred proponent" to design and build the Gordie Howe. The group's design called for the longest cable-stayed main span in North America, with a span over 2,700 feet in length. In August, after some concern over its schedule and ability to complete the project, Aecon Group rejoined the consortium.
Construction Work Begins
The day of the ceremony, Snyder noted that there are a number of options for speeding up construction of the bridge, but he did not name specifics. The governor of Michigan also thanked Canada for paying for the bridge up front. (Michigan will repay its half through tolls.)
According to the Windsor Star, the Canadian government will pay roughly 85 percent of the cost of the project to the global construction team over the next 30 years, with the consortium covering the remaining 15 percent, mostly through bonds. Trudeau also noted that the bridge will provide economic opportunities for both Detroit and Windsor.
Roughly 7,000 vehicles cross the border near the Windsor-Detroit area, accounting for close to 25 percent of trade between the U.S. and Canada.
Construction is set to begin with deep drilling for the bridge’s piers, which will rival the height of Detroit’s 73-story Renaissance Center. The construction workforce will be split between residents of both countries, with 2,500 people on sites in both Windsor and Detroit. The $4.4 billion price tag covers the cost of construction, the building of new toll plazas and long-term bridge maintenance.
The Canadian government has also approved a second span for the Ambassador Bridge, with the condition that the original span be dismantled within five years of the completion of the new one. The Moroun family has not specified whether that bridge will be built. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette remains hopeful about a second span, however.
Schuette has not detailed if he will advocate for a second Ambassador span in his run for governor. He did note that he was supportive of having big goals regarding the possibilities.
“Let’s have as many bridges as possible built across the Detroit River," he said. "Let’s have economic commerce at its finest. Let’s not say we have to be limited.”