Gordie Howe International Bridge
|Location||Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor|
|Proposer||Michigan Department of Transportation and Ministry of Transportation of Ontario|
|Cost estimate||$1 billion to $2.2 billion|
|Supporters||PM Stephen Harper (Canada), Gov. Rick Snyder (Michigan), Ford Motors' executive chairman Bill Ford, Steve Buehrer (Ohio)|
|Opponents||Manuel Moroun (Detroit International Bridge Company)|
The Gordie Howe International Bridge (previously known during development as the Detroit River International Crossing and the New International Trade Crossing) is a planned bridge and border crossing to be constructed across the Detroit River. The crossing, as proposed, will connect Detroit and Windsor by linking Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Michigan with the new Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway connection to Highway 401 in Ontario. This route will provide uninterrupted traffic flow, as opposed to the current configuration with the nearby Ambassador Bridge, which connects to city streets on the Canadian side. The bridge will be named after Canadian ice hockey player Gordie Howe, who was best known for his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League.
First proposed in 2004, the project was met with prominent opposition, primarily by Manuel Moroun—owner of the for-profit Ambassador Bridge. The project was approved by the U.S. federal government in April 2013. The following month, the Canadian federal government allocated $25 million to begin land acquisition on the Detroit side.
The project began as the Detroit River International Crossing (DIRC) in 2004, and received approvals in 2007 and 2008 with Ontario beginning Windsor–Essex Parkway construction in 2011. The highway, renamed the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway in December 2012, was planned to be completed by 2015, but problems with several girders that were already installed forced a delay in the parkway's completion as the girders need to be replaced. The delay is not expected to affect the bridge project's timetable.
In 2011, the bridge was tentatively scheduled for completion in 2016, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. It was estimated that the bridge would generate $70.4 million in toll revenues in its first year of operation. The Michigan Senate's Economic Development Committee dealt the plan a setback by turning down a $550 million Canadian appropriation in October 2011, but an agreement announced June 15, 2012, ensured the project will proceed with the Canadian federal government funding bridge construction, land acquisition in Michigan and the construction of Interstate 75 on-ramps. The Canadian contribution will be repaid from bridge tolls collected on the Canadian side, and no tolls will be charged on the U.S. side.
On April 12, 2013, the US Department of State and the Obama Administration granted Michigan the permit required to build the bridge, allowing construction to go forward once details were finalized.
The Canadian government allocated $25 million to begin land acquisition on the Detroit side on May 22, 2013. A Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), with three representatives from each side, was appointed July 30, 2014. In January 2015, Parsons Corporation was named the general engineering consultant for the bridge. On February 18, 2015, Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt announced that Canada would fund the construction of a customs plaza on the U.S. side of the bridge in Detroit's Delray neighbourhood. The plaza will have a budget of around $250 million, and be recouped through tolls. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will provide a first-year investment of $150 million, and an "ongoing annual requirement" of $50 million, to cover the plaza's operational and staffing costs..
With traffic crossing the border anticipated to grow from 18,500 vehicles a day in 2016 to 26,500 by 2025, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will provide an orderly flow of people and goods between the two countries. Transport Canada retained the engineering firms, Morrison Hershfield, Davis Langdon, and Delcan to develop cost estimates for right of way and utility relocation; design and construction; and operation and maintenance on the Canadian side of the crossing.
The bridge will connect to the new Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway on its east side. The parkway will be below-grade and have six through-lanes. It will follow (but not replace) Talbot Road and Huron Church Road from a new interchange at the current end of Highway 401 to the E. C. Row Expressway, where it will run concurrently westward for 2 km (1.2 mi). From there, it will turn northwest and follow a new alignment to the border. Initial construction of a noise barrier from North Talbot Road to Howard Avenue began in March 2010. Two new bridges south of the current Highway 3/401 junction are also under construction. Full construction of the parkway began in 2011, with an expected completion date of 2015.
Construction of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway that links to the bridge on the Canadian side was hampered by concerns that it could affect a habitat of Butler's garter snakes—their last-known habitat in the province—in the area. During the construction process, the snakes (including eastern fox snakes, and the garters—of which there were a larger number than originally alleged) were relocated by biologists, with their new habitats protected by a specially-designed above and below-ground fencing system along affected portions of the E. C. Row Expressway.
The Michigan Senate has not approved any authorizing legislation related to the bridge. The Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has stated that the Senate will not vote until revenue forecasts are released, reports that are being withheld by the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. The Michigan House of Representatives has already passed the measure while the bill is called "doomed" in the Senate. In 2009, the Ohio State Senate passed a non-binding resolution expressing support for the crossing, and urged the Michigan Government to pass it, due to Canada being Ohio's largest foreign trade partner, with $USD 35.8 billion per year in goods traded between Ohio and Canada.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder supported construction of the new crossing in his first State of the State address on January 19, 2011. His plan would leverage Canadian money to receive a 160 percent match—totaling $2.2 billion—on funding from the Federal Highway Administration in a deal reached the week previous to the speech. In August 2011, Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall, when asked by The Windsor Star if enabling legislation for the bridge would currently pass, replied "absolutely not."
In October 2011, "the Michigan Senate rejected a bill [which] would have allowed the state to accept $550 million from the Canadian government to fund the country’s share of the New International Trade Crossing." One commentator, Bill Mann, noted the rejection, saying "Canada calls the new bridge its biggest infrastructure priority and has even offered to pay for the span. But pesky U.S. special-interest politics intrude once again," as he reviewed a number of "U.S. government actions (and inactions) that show little concern about Canadian concerns". Mann drew from, and U.S. attention to, Macleans' article sub-titled "we used to be friends" about U.S.–Canada relations after the Keystone Pipeline, bridge and other "again" insulting decisions.
The most vocal opposition to the new crossing has been from billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge. He has sued the governments of Canada and Michigan to stop its construction, and released a proposal to build a second span of the Ambassador Bridge (which he would own) instead. Critics suggest that Moroun's opposition is fueled by the prospect of lost profits from duty-free gasoline sales, which are exempt from about 60 cents per gallon in taxes even though the pump price to consumers is only a few cents lower.
In 2012, Moroun spent more than $30 million promoting a proposed constitutional amendment that, had it passed, would have required approval of both the voters of Detroit and the voters of Michigan in state-wide elections to build the bridge. US National Public Radio, in a November 2 story aired four days before the vote, indicated the amendment's "seemingly neutral language masks a very specific—and bitter—political battle". More than 60 percent of those who voted on the proposal rejected Moroun's Proposal 6, paving the way for the bridge to proceed.
In early June 2011, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity posted bogus eviction notices on homes in Detroit’s Delray district. With the words "Eviction Notice" in large type, the notices told homeowners their properties could be taken by the Michigan Department of Transportation to make way for the proposed new bridge. The group’s state director said the fake notices were intended to get residents to contact state lawmakers, to ask them to vote against the bridge project.
In July 2011, the Canadian Transit Company, the Canadian arm of the Ambassador Bridge, began running advertisements against the DRIC proposal, calling it a "$2.2 billion road to nowhere". The phone number listed for Canadian Transit Company forwarded to a phone number in Michigan, and the Canadian Transit Company previously held its 2011 annual meeting at the offices of the Detroit International Bridge Company. MPP Dwight Duncan advised that he was investigating whether or not the ads violated Ontario's election laws, which disallow public spending by foreign lobbyists.
Snyder stated that he had "not [been] crazy" about naming the bridge the Detroit River International Crossing, noting that "DRIC" was intended only to be the name of the commission sponsoring the bridge, and not the bridge itself. Concerns were also acknowledged that the abbreviated name was too close to that of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC)—which would be too sensitive given its objections to the project. Sometime afterward, the working name for the project became the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), garnering the endorsement of 139 organizations and individuals. It was under the NITC name that the project was approved by the U.S. State Department on April 12, 2013.
In late 2010, David Bradley, president of the Ontario Trucking Association, proposed naming the bridge in honor of Gordie Howe—a Canadian hockey player who played for the Detroit Red Wings. The naming was supported by a number of Canadian politicians, along with Howe's son Marty—who felt the name would have been symbolic of him having "crossed the bridge" from Canada to spend his NHL career in Detroit. On May 14, 2015, during an event attended by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it was officially announced that the bridge would be known as the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
- Detroit–Windsor Tunnel, a car-van-bus link between the two cities
- Blue Water Bridge, connecting Port Huron, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario, where traffic may also be affected and which was also featured in an anti-bridge ad which ran on Michigan TV.
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- Detroit River International Crossing Project
- Windsor–Essex Parkway official website
- Conceptual Engineering Report
- New International Trade Crossing from the State of Michigan
- Morrison Hershfield - Detroit River International Crossing