Crews are well into wick drain installation at the Canadian Port of Entry. (Photo courtesy of Gordie Howe Bridge Facebook)

Gordie Howe International Bridge Towers to rise next summer

You may not see it, but there is a lot of activity underway at the Canadian port of entry to the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

So far, Bridging North America has set up its offices at Sandwich Street and Prospect Avenue, 45,000 out of 150,000 wick drains have been installed, the soil is being prepared to support the new border crossing connecting Windsor and Detroit.

On the U.S. side, all but two properties required for the American port of entry are purchased, and the end of the year should see deals for the final pieces of land finalized.

Trucks have begun to arrive at the site bringing in the material to build the bridge. Some 200 trucks will come daily.

However, by mid-2020, progress on the bridge will be apparent to everyone living in the area.

“So right now, we’re focused on the drilled shafts and the work in the ground itself,” said Bridging North America CEO Aaron Epstein. “The towers themselves are going to be rising, I would say in the summer.”

A total of 18 drill shafts are required, 12 for the main tower footing and six for the backspan measuring 36 metres in length each. Work on the tower footings on the Canadian side will start next month, with formwork, rebar, and concrete pouring in January.

That same month, workers will start to install the post-tensioning system, ducts and anchors.

“We’re hoping it’s a good winter, as always, so we can continue to have a good strong productivity throughout the winter,” Epstein told reporters. “We have contingency plans in place as well.”

Over the coming months, drivers will also notice some work on the I-75. The ramps to and from Springwells Street will be reconstructed, along with the north and southbound I-75 service drives at Springwells, Livernois Street, and Clark Street road bridges.

The Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority and Bridging North America have held two vendor summits to find all the workers needed to complete the project.

Epstein said now; there are at about 200 professionals working in the project office with another 3-400 designers working on and off-site. Another couple hundred contractors and subcontractors are on the site.

So far, the project has had no problem recruiting all the workers needed, but as the heavy construction ramps up from 2021 to 2023, many thousands will be required.

“What we’ve talked about in the vendor summits and with the communities is that the large workforce, the real needs on this project, is going to happen in 2021, 2022, 2023,” explained Epstein.

Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority and Bridging North America also announced the opening of applications for the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy.

It is part of the community benefits funding set aside to make improvements in the Olde Sandwich Towne and Del Ray neighbourhoods.

Eligible organizations can apply for funding on an annual basis for events, programming, and infrastructure improvements.

Applications for 2020 will close on January 31, 2020.