Bryce Phillips, CEO of Windsor-Detroit Bridge, speaks at the Sandwich Community Office in Windsor on August 21, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Gordie Howe Bridge making progress

Officials with the building of Gordie Howe International Bridge are pleased with how the project is coming along so far.

On Wednesday morning, officials gave an update on the project at the new Community Office in Sandwich Town.

According to Bryce Phillips, Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority CEO, since beginning construction in the fall of 2018, significant progress has been completed on the infrastructure project, which Phillips referred to as one of the largest in North America.  Once it’s complete, the six-lane, 2.5-km cable-stayed bridge will connect Michigan’s Interstate 75 highway with the Herb Gray Parkway in Windsor. Construction cost is estimated to total around $5.7 billion.

Phillips said the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has hired approximately 70 people to date. Meanwhile Bridging North America, the group responsible for building and maintaining the Gordie Howe International Bridge, has hired about 160 people for their workforce. The project has also included the work of dozens of North American based businesses.

“At Bridging North America, they’ve executed contracts and purchase orders with about 65 Canadian companies and about 40 Michigan-based companies,” Phillips said. “So quite a bit of progress over the last 8 months or so building the two teams to come together as one team.”

As for the construction itself, Phillips said the most active period is expected to happen between 2021 and 2023. However, there has been a plethora of planning and design work happening behind the scene. According to Phillips, Bridging North America has completed over 50 per cent of their design work, which focuses heavily on the first phases of construction. He added that design and construction activities will be happening simultaneously.

“As we progress the design and different elements of the design are completed, the construction unit can start building,” Phillips explained. “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.”

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.

“When you think about projects of this magnitude, you just don’t come in and plunk down your bridge… there’s a lot of preparation work that has to be done on both sides of the border to get the sites ready,” said Phillips.

The team has also been conducting testing on various pieces of the project, something they call a critical component of the work that has to be done.

“We just recently conducted some wind tunnel testing,” said Phillips. “When you stop and think about it, they’ll be some significant storms in the area. The bridge has to accommodate that kind of wind force. So there’s a lot of testing that’s gone on to ensure the design is capable of withstanding that kind of wind.”

Overall, Phillips said work is on track and they are confident in their scheduled November 2024 completion date.

“We’re very much excited and looking forward to the next five years to get this project done,” he said.

Resident and stakeholders are also being given the chance to learn more about the project. The new Community Office, located at 3201 Sandwich St., is a place where people can meet with the project team, view plans and ask questions.  A similar community office opened in Detroit in March.

“The bridge project will bring positive social and economic benefits to the area so it’s important to be in the heart of this community to engage all of the residents and business within it,” said Aaron Epstein, Bridging North America CEO.

Hours for the Sandwich Office are Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Wednesdays 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  The Gordie Howe International Bridge project team has also set up a toll-free number that can be reached by calling 1-844-322-1773.