Gordie Howe Bridge project moving ahead even as new Moroun bridge faces obstacles

Sunday, 08 October 2017, 05:22:25 PM. The Gordie Howe bridge project has been moving ahead quietly for some time now, and shows no signs of stopping.

As Mark Twain might have said, reports of the death of the Gordie Howe International Bridge have been greatly exaggerated.

Word that Canada last month granted the Moroun family a permit to build their long-sought new span alongside their Ambassador Bridge seemed to open the question of Canada’s commitment to the public Gordie Howe bridge project.

And when the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority gave the three international teams of builders vying to build the Gordie Howe four extra months to get in their final bids, that, too, seemed to push back the opening date of the span perhaps to 2023, well beyond initial estimates.

But there was less there than meets the eye from these developments. The Gordie Howe bridge project has been moving ahead quietly for some time now, and shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, the government of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized that the new bridge remains his nation’s top infrastructure priority.

A few facts and figures bear that out:

  • The government of Canada has already spent about $350 million on bridge-related work in Windsor and Detroit. That’s in addition to the $1 billion or so spent building the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway in Windsor that will connect the Gordie Howe Bridge to Canada’s 401 expressway.
  • Of that, Canada has spent about $150 million in the U.S. on the project, not including what Canada will reimburse the Michigan Department of Transportation for buying land in Detroit’s Delray district for the bridge.
  • MDOT already controls about 85% of the land needed in southwest Detroit for the project.
  • The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority overseeing the project has about 70 people on staff — engineers, finance experts, and so forth — working on the project. They meet with the three teams of finalists regularly to go over details.
  • Those three teams, each consisting of about a dozen contracting and engineering firms from the U.S., Canada and other nations, have an estimated 2,000 professionals working on preparing their bids.

In other words, enough time, money and person hours have been spent on this project to convince even the most hardened skeptic that the project moves ahead.

Read more:

And if the Gordie Howe project is further ahead than it may seem, the Moroun family’s plan to build a new bridge alongside their Ambassador Bridge may face more hurdles than were apparent last month when Canada granted them a permit.

The permit issued to the Morouns by the federal agency Transport Canada came with a lengthy list of conditions that inevitably will slow down the Moroun’s second span. Chief among those: The Morouns must dismantle their Ambassador Bridge within five years of opening their new span.

gordie-howe-bridge-project-moving-ahead-even-as-new-moroun-bridge-faces-obstacles photo 1

Rendering shows a possible configuration of the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge. (Photo: Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority)

And before starting to build their new bridge, the Morouns’ Canadian Transit Company must prove to Canadian authorities that they have the permits in hand to dismantle the Ambassador Bridge. Moreover, they’ll have to prove they have the money to pay for the removal of the Ambassador, and that ability must be certified by an independent and qualified engineering expert.

Read more:

Canada also requires the Morouns to consult with the Walpole Island First Nation, a Canadian Indian tribe, on the “benefits and opportunities” that the new bridge project may present for the tribe.

In addition, among much infrastructure work in Windsor the Morouns are on the hook for, the Morouns will have to pay, in advance, to relocate a Windsor fire station near the project.

These conditions and many others mean building a replacement for the Ambassador Bridge won’t be a simple matter of connecting the two approaches, already built in Windsor and Detroit, with a span in the middle.

Which raises an interesting question: Which bridge will be built first? It’s not really a race, of course. Finishing one bridge doesn’t mean work stops on the other.

By 2023 or so, we ought to see at least one new bridge and perhaps two spanning the Detroit River — the Gordie Howe International Bridge and the new Ambassador — opening a spirited competition for traffic and tolls.

Let the games begin.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.

Read or Share this story: http://on.freep.com/2yQ3B9L

Share this
Article Gordie Howe Bridge project moving ahead even as new Moroun bridge faces obstacles compiled by www.freep.com