The Canadian Consul General presented details about the new Gordie Howe International Bridge Project that is under construction to further link Canada and the United States.
Joseph Comartin was keynote speaker at the Jan. 18 Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments General Assembly meeting.
Expected to open late in 2024, the bridge will be the longest cable stay designed bridge in North America. It will be somewhat similar style to the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway in Toledo, but the two towers will be almost twice the height, at 772 feet. It will be half a mile long span (0.53 miles) without a pier in the water.
Comartin said he believes it will become as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
“It will be a game changer for cross border supply chains,” Comartin said. “We are engaging with Toledo and other communities along the freight corridor leading to the new crossing with the goal of facilitating discussions, planning and activities to capitalize on this new infrastructure asset.”
The bridge will be publicly held, between both Michigan and Canada.
He addressed the current issues of congestion at the crossing. He said that 25% of the U.S.-Canada trade crosses between Windsor and Detroit, but there are currently only three methods to cross the location: the tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge and a truck ferry for vehicles carrying hazardous materials.
Comartin also stressed the redundancy of the new bridge.
“If the existing bridges were to close, even temporarily, there would not be nearly enough alternatives for trucks. A second crossing would inspire confidence in making investment decisions. It’s absolutely crucial for that redundancy to be created,” Comartin said.
The Howe Bridge will double the number of lanes of traffic crossing at the Detroit border with Windsor.
There are currently six lanes of traffic between the tunnel and Ambassador Bridge that accommodate 11,400 vehicles per day, with 7,000 being freight trucks.
It will also expand the type of lanes. The tunnel is too low and narrow for many modern trucks, so the majority of freight traffic crosses the Detroit River on the Ambassador Bridge, which is aging.
In addition to road traffic there will also be toll-free multi-use paths for bikes and foot traffic.
The new bridge is also expected to employ an additional 2,500 people, in combination between both countries.
Comartin also addressed the impact of the pandemic. There has been as much as an estimated 7% drop in border traffic. While construction crews are taking safety precautions, it has not affected construction of the new bridge or related building projects, like the adjustments to the rail crossing.
Comartin said that local communities along Interstate 75, including both Monroe and Dayton, are starting to include the new bridge in formal economic development plans.
Tolls will be collected on the Canadian side and there is extensive restructuring of the road system in Windsor related to customs, tolls, entrance and exit.
Comartin said that there is expected to be as much as a 60% time savings for the trucking industry in the new crossing.
For the first time a crossing will directly link I-75 and Canadian Highway 401.
It is currently necessary for vehicles to travel through five miles of local inner-city traffic.
As part of the traffic, there is a rail crossing that halts vehicular traffic. That crossing is being eliminated.
The U.S. Port of Entry will be 167 acres and the Canadian will be 130 acres.
Comartin also acknowledged that there is debate about the Ambassador Bridge, which is privately held, and the busiest international freight crossing in North America.
It opened in 1929 and has had several repair projects over the last few years. The owners have applied for permits to build a new bridge, which would be adjacent to the current bridge.
The negotiations with the Canadian government are over removal of the current bridge, which Canada would require. Comartin did not give a timeline related to any Ambassador Bridge construction.
Updates on the construction can be found on the web at www.gordiehoweinternationalbridge.com and it includes current traffic updates related to the bridge construction.