Gordie Howe Gets $15M in Federal Funding
Late last month, the first portion of U.S. federal funding to go toward the construction of the Gordie Howe Bridge was included in the $1.4 trillion spending bill signed by President Donald J. Trump. The $15 million in funding will cover inspection and vehicle-screening systems for the port on the U.S. side of the bridge connecting to Canada.
According to Crain’s Detroit Business, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, aimed for the funding as part of the deal that helped prevent a partial government shutdown.
Gordie Howe Project History
The Gordie Howe International Bridge has been in the planning stages for more than a decade, having first been proposed in 2004. In 2012, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder worked out a deal with Canada to construct a new bridge that would provide an additional crossing between Detroit and Windsor. By 2013, former President Barack Obama gave federal approval for the project.
In November 2016, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority announced it had issued a request for proposals to three teams that had been chosen through an earlier request-for-qualifications process for the bridge’s design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance. The RFP process was expected to take 18 months.
However, a few months following the announcement, six companies owned by the Moroun family, owners of the Ambassador Bridge (the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in terms of trade volume), tried to sue Snyder alleging that he acted illegally when he worked out a deal with the Canadian government to fund construction on the American side of the bridge, without the approval of the Michigan legislature, in order to halt construction.
That wasn’t the first time Manuel “Matty” Moroun tried to block the Gordie Howe Bridge: Earlier that same year, a federal judge dismissed a suit the Detroit International Bridge Co. filed arguing that the federal approval of the bridge was unconstitutional. The same judge ruled that several other arguments Moroun made against the construction were invalid in 2015 as well.
Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. determined that an agreement made by the state governor with the Canadian government to construct another international bridge was valid, despite the Ambassador owner’s claims to the contrary.
Though the project has faced a number of other legal steps and issues, by October 2018, a $4.4 billion contract for the Gordie Howe Bridge was finalized and a competition date was slated for 2024. Construction officially broke ground on Oct. 5, 2018, with a ceremony attended by both Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In January of last year, the Michigan Supreme Court blocked an appeal from Moroun. Michigan House Republicans announced in June a budget plan that prohibits the Michigan Department of Transportation from using taxpayer money for the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, regardless of Canada’s claim to reimburse the state for all relevant expenses. In July, demolition and site-clearing work commenced in a stretch of Detroit. In late November, construction on the project was reported to be continuing apace.
Recent Funding Development
Collectively, the customs plazas, bridge and connections to the highways are estimated to total $2.9 billion to build, with $1.5 billion in operating costs covering the next 30 years. The two towers that are to support the bridge are also currently under construction.
Around five years ago, the Canadian government agreed to pay for the construction of the U.S. port of entry, which will be “repaid from future toll revenues and not by Canadian taxpayers,” said former minister of transport for Canada Lisa Raitt.
The Michigan Department of Transportation spent $85.8 million on the project in fiscal 2019, but MDOT received $87.5 million in reimbursements from Canada within the same timeframe. MDOT initially funded the acquisition of land and demolition, and funding also included expenses incurred as well as employee working time.
According to the Windsor Star, project construction costs are being covered by a public-private partnership agreement with consortium Bridging North America. Currently, the Gordie Howe is slated to open by 2024.