Gordie Howe International Bridge construction starts with early wick drain, soil preparation work

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By Mark Buckshon

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Gordie Howe International Bridge is taking shape with early stage procurement and construction, as project managers prepare for much more intensive work between 2021 and 2023.

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

Meanwhile, 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, Blackburnnews.com reports.

Material is being brought in to build the bridge and some 200 trucks will arrive daily bringing the material needed.

shaft early work wdba
Early work on the Gordie Howe International Bridge (WDBA)

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

“So right now, we are focused on the drilled shafts and the work in the ground itself. The towers themselves are going to be rising in the summer,” Bridging North America CEO Aaron Epstein was quoted as saying. “We’re hoping its a good winter as always, so we can continue to have a good strong productivity throughout the winter. We have contingency plans in place as well.”

The bridge requires a total of 18 drill shafts. Twelve are needed for the main tower footing and six for the backspan measuring 36 metres in length each. Bridging North America says work on the tower foots on the Canadian side will start next month, with formwork, rebar, and concrete pouring in January. As well, contractors will start to install the post-tensioning system, ducts and anchors.

Meanwhile, the ramps to and from Springwells Street will be reconstructed, along with the north and southbound I-75 service drives at Springwells, Liernois Street and Clark Street road bridges.

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

Epstein says some 200 professionals are working in the project office with another 300 to 400 designers working on and off-site. As well, there  are a couple of hundred contractors and subcontractors on the site.

So far, Bridging North America reports not having any problem recruiting the required workers, but the employment levels will grow substantially from 2021 to 2023 as heavy construction takes place.

Meanwhile, applications are now being taken for the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy. This 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 this funding on an annual basis for events, programming and infrastructure improvements. Applications will close on Jan. 31, 2020.

The bridge is expected to open by 2024 and officials announced last year that the project would cost about $4.4 billion. The bridge will be the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America when it’s finished, with six lanes as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes, and will be able to accept hazardous waste, unlike the Ambassador Bridge.

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