By Robin MacLennan
Dozens of workers have been hired and site preparation is well underway as construction for the $5.7-billion Gordie Howe International Bridge project rolls toward the anticipated November 2024 completion date.
Officials from the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) and Bridging North America (BNA) — the project’s contractor — provided a construction status update recently, inside the historic former Sandwich post office in Windsor. The site was unveiled as a community storefront for the new Detroit River bridge crossing.
Once complete, the six-lane, 2.5-km cable-stayed bridge will connect Michigan’s Interstate 75 highway with the Herb Gray Parkway in Windsor.
“Bridging North America is a proud member of the Sandwich community and is excited to be here today to celebrate the official opening of the Sandwich community office,” said Aaron Epstein, CEO for BNA.
“The bridge project will bring positive social and economic benefits to the area, so it’s important to be in the heart of the community to engage all residents and businesses within it.”
The new office, inside a former post office at the corner of Sandwich and Mill streets will be staffed by WDBA employees who will answer questions, provide information or address concerns about construction of the bridge project.
Work on the binational bridge project officially began last October. Once completed, it will include a new six-lane cable-stayed bridge, plazas on both sides of the river and a new three-kilometre feeder road to link with I-75 in Detroit.
Design and construction activities will be happening simultaneously.
“As we progress the design and different elements are completed, the construction unit can start building,” said Bryce Phillips, CEO for the bridge authority.
“So we will see construction starting even though we talk about 60 per cent design complete, or 80 per cent design complete, it’s a design-build where you start constructing it as elements of the design are being completed.”
To date, 160 workers have been hired for construction and the workforce continues to grow by 10 to 15 workers each month. BNA is working with local unions to reach local labour agreements that will cover participation in the project by skilled construction trades.
BNA has executed contracts and/or purchase orders with approximately 65 Canadian companies and more than 40 Michigan-based companies for materials, products and services related to project construction.
In June, BNA opened its new construction office at the site of the Canadian Port of Entry. The office is configured as four separate buildings assembled from 58 modular units, ensuring WDBA and BNA workers can be housed in one location, eliminating travel time and providing a large central office to accommodate employees during the six-year construction period.
Significant work continues at the sites of the Canadian and US Ports of Entry (POE), the bridge, and the Michigan Interchange. In Canada, the transmission and distribution line relocations are now complete, with final connections to the existing system scheduled for work at the end of October.
Work on the Perimeter Access Road around the Canadian POE is continuing with concrete paving to start in a few weeks. The Perimeter Access Road is scheduled for completion by December 2019.
Over the next year construction will continue to focus on site preparation and foundation testing for the new piers and shoreline. The actual bridge structure will being to appear in 2021. Later this month, on the Canadian side of the project, BNA will also start additional wick drain installation throughout the POE. The wick drains are used to consolidate the soil and ensure that there is a solid base for the facilities.
All required properties on the Canadian side have been acquired. On the Detroit side, just five properties still need to be acquired through expropriation out of 636 parcels.
Community benefits include $20 million of economic, social, and environmental effects for host communities of Sandwich and Delray, where the structure will connect Windsor and Detroit by the end of 2024. An extensive community benefits package has been announced – and stakeholders are being recruited to help put the plan to action.
The WBDA is now recruiting 16 stakeholders on each side of the border, to help implement a community benefits plan and provide input and formal linkages that will assist bridge builder Bridging North America and the WDBA understand the perspective and goals of the community.
Testing of the bridge soffit occurred at a manufacturing facility in Quebec City, Quebec. The soffit is not just an aesthetic feature of the bridge, but also helps protect the bridge structural systems.
Wind tunnel testing of a scale model of the bridge was conducted at a testing facility in Guelph. This testing is essential in the design of the bridge to ensure the stability of the structure.
Several site preparation efforts on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border have already been completed and even more work will be taking place this fall. These include completing the perimeter access road around the Canadian Port of Entry and beginning to demolish three road bridges on I-75 in Detroit.