Gordie Howe International Bridge work continues despite COVID-19 with completion still expected by 2024

tower footing
Rebar installation on one of the tower footings in late May (Source: WDBA project gallery at https://www.gordiehoweinternationalbridge.com/en/gallery)

WDBA announces community benefits grants

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Work on the Gordie Howe International Bridge connecting Windsor and Detroit is continuing and the bridge builders believe they will be able to complete the project on schedule in 2024 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reason why we are still showing the end of 2024 is because that is still four years away and there is still a lot of opportunity over the next four years to mitigate what’s happened” because of the pandemic, Bryce Phillips, CEO of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WBDA) said at a June 10 briefing.

Consortium Bridging North America (BNA) is building and will operate the bridge under a $5.7 billion fixed-price contract.

Because the bridge is considered an essential project on both sides of the border, work has continued throughout the past three months. Safety protools including daily screening, suspension of cross-border travel for non-essential workers, masks for all workers, and physical distancing have been implemented.

tower footing under construction
One of the tower footings at the Canadian side under construction in late May (Source: https://www.gordiehoweinternationalbridge.com/en/gallery)

“There have been spot checks by the Ministry of Labour a number of times and they always come out two thumbs up dealing with the safety protocols,” Phillips said. “There’s a lot of stuff being learned by a lot of people but (BNA CEO) Aaron (Epstein) and his team deserve a lot of credit to ensure construction proceeds safely for all those involved.”

Nevertheless, he said staying on schedule “will be a challenge, there’s no doubt about it.”

Epstein said: “the last few months have been very challenging for everyone around the world and it’s no different for those working on the Gordie Howe Bridge.”

Current and recent work includes a four-kilometre perimeter access road around the Canadian port of entry, and Hydro One transmission lines and cables have been installed.

wdba gallery image
Tower foundation work at the Canadian side (https://www.gordiehoweinternationalbridge.com/en/gallery)

As well, the consortium has continued to install wick drains to enable moisture to escape from the wet soil. Epstein said 103,000 drains have been recently installed, bringing the total to 150,000.  Workers have demolished three bridges on the US side and wick installation there continues, as the main bridge footings have been completed and tower footings are now being installed.  As well, workers have placed 650,000 metric tonnes of permanent grade raise.

There are four project components including the US and Canadian ports of entry, the bridge and a Michigan highway interchange. These are all under construction.

BNA consortium members include Flour Canada, Aecon, Aecom, ACS Infrastructure Canad, Dragados Canada Inc., RBC Dominion Securities, Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects, Moriyama & Teshima, Carlos Fernandez Casado and FHECOR Ingeniros Consultores.

On the design side, the final design of the bridge is almost completed and it is being reviewed by international subject-matter experts, Epstein said.

Meanwhile WDBA reported that nine organizations serving Sandwich/west Windsor and Delray/Southwest Detroit are the benefactors of the first round of funding through the Community Organization Investment initiative – a component of the Gordie Howe International Bridge Community Benefits Plan.

The $100,000 (CDN) in funding will be provided in July and will support the exciting and versatile projects announced onJune 10, 2020. In all, the projects will benefit local children and seniors, support businesspeople and honour the area’s rich history.

Phillips says the funding is part of their commitment to help the residents of the host communities prosper.

“The Gordie Howe International Bridge project will create jobs and economic opportunities for the Windsor/Detroit region,” Phillips said in a statement “Beyond that, the project team is working closely with our neighbouring community members, involving them in the project and delivering meaningful benefits that will positively impact their quality of life. We are listening. We are partnering. We are connecting communities.”

The Community Organization Investment, an initiative under the Community Benefits Plan, is a five-year annual investment allowance with $50,000 allocated to registered non-profit or charitable organizations located in or serving residents in Sandwich/west Windsor and Delray/Southwest Detroit respectively. The funds support events, programming and infrastructure improvements that will benefit the communities and align with one of the community investment priorities, including community partnerships, community safety and connections, economic benefits, and/or aesthetics and landscaping.

“This is yet another milestone in the delivery of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project, said BNA CEO Epstein. “This Community Organization Investment is an extension of our Community Benefits Plan and the result of continued collaboration with our many stakeholders and will provide positive outcomes for the communities in west Windsor and Southwest Detroit.”

Three of this year’s nine recipients serve the residents of Southwest Detroit.

  • Bridging Communities will receive $15,000 to increase the social interactions of seniors in Delray. The organization will use the funds to enhance supportive services such as monthly wellbeing checks. Officials also plan to host more community events such as cooking classes, dinner dances, trivia nights and other special events to allow seniors to make connections with their peers.
  • Anne de Detroit Catholic Church, founded in 1701, will also receive $15,000 for its food pantry. Alicia Rodriguez, the manager of the food pantry, says the money will help meet the increased demand for food as well as household and personal care items. “The funding provided by the Gordie Howe International Bridge Community Benefits Plan will allow us to purchase equipment to expand our storage and handling capabilities to better serve the growing number of individuals and families seeking assistance,” says Rodriguez.
  • The West Vernor & Springwells Business Improvement District (BID)is the recipient of $20,000. The organization will use the funding to design and implement a social media campaign to promote local businesses at specific times of the year including Cinco De Mayo, Dia de Los Muertos, holiday shopping and Southwest Restaurant Week. The campaign aims to attract more customers to businesses operating near the construction sites.

The other half of the funding from the Community Organization Investment initiative will be shared among six groups serving west Windsor.

  • The Sandwich First Baptist Churchis the recipient of $20,000. The money will be used to help construct a large heritage museum in a modified shipping container that will honour the Sandwich area’s role with the Underground Railroad and celebrate the contributions of African Canadians. “This museum is going to bridge the past with the future,” says Historian Lana Talbot. “We’re going to take you on tours of the Underground Railroad and it’s going to bring a lot of people from the United States into Canada. Of all the things that are going on now, we hope this is going to be one of the positive things that will reach millions of people.”
  • The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Windsor Essex Central Councilwill receive $11,000 to fund activities and attract more members at the Helping Hands Friendship Centre. The centre provides no-cost, fun activities for diverse residents of the west-end such as a family fun day barbecue, tours and picnics, educational programs, arts and crafts as well as communal celebrations of special holidays such as Christmas.
  • The Friends of the Courtorganization is getting $8,000 to improve the outdoor space at Mackenzie Hall in Sandwich. The money will be used to purchase and replace large stock native trees, reposition a heritage pear tree, replace deteriorated or missing perennial plant material and install a support rail for existing wisteria shrubs.
  • Funding will also support environment initiatives at the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA). $4,100 will fund a binational Detroit River Canadian Cleanup with several community organizations. The event will include two cleanup locations in Sandwich, Windsor including Black Oaks Heritage Park/Ojibway Shores and the area between Queen’s Dock Park and McKee Park.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windsor-Essexwill receive $4,500 to create a targeted outreach campaign to find in-school mentors for 75 more children and youth in the Sandwich area. The campaign will include four outreach and recruitment events held in the community to allow potential volunteers to better understand the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and the need for mentors in the neighbourhood.
  • The organization behind the Les Amis Duff-Bâby Mansionwill also receive $2,400. First opened in 1798, it is known as Windsor’s oldest house and the oldest building in Canada west of Toronto. Vice President David Garlick says they will use the funds to host a grand opening event to commemorate the partnership that was recently established with the City of Windsor and the Ontario Heritage Trust.

Garlick says the partnership will permit regular public access to the historically significant structure and site for the first time in 221 years. “The grand opening will feature reenactments, events for children, tours of the house and walking tours of the Sandwich community,” says Garlick. “We are grateful to the Gordie Howe International Bridge for this grant.”

The recipients were selected following an application process that ran from November 2019 through January 2020 and resulted in 50 eligible submissions. The project’s Local Community Group, comprised of stakeholders from the host communities on both sides of the border, played a significant role in reviewing the applications and providing recommendations to the project team.

The application process for the 2021 funding cycle is anticipated to begin in November 2020.

For more information about the Community Organization Investment, please see the materials prepared for the January 2020 open house.


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