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Gordie Howe bridge consortium brings wealth of experience, says WDBA chair

Ron Stang
Gordie Howe bridge consortium brings wealth of experience, says WDBA chair
WINDSOR-DETROIT BRIDGE AUTHORITY — The Bridging North America team, consisting of ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Dragados Canada Inc., Fluor Canada Ltd. and AECOM has been selected to construct the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. A cable-stayed design was selected for several reasons including cost effectiveness and a “better performing bridge structurally as far as efficiency of materials,” said Tom Middlebrook, consortium spokesman and senior vice-president of business development for Dragados.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) has picked a consortium with plenty of Canadian and U.S. bridge design experience to be the contractor of record for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Bridging North America, formed expressly for the international bridge project where construction will start in the fall, has partners currently constructing Montreal’s new Champlain bridge, the Harbor and Tappan Zee bridges in New York State and the completed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge east span replacement.

They’re also involved with Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Montreal’s now underway Reseau express metropolitain light rail project, have completed work on that city’s Autoroute 30 bypass and even built overpasses for Windsor’s Herb Gray Parkway, which will connect Highway 401 to the Gordie Howe bridge.

The proponent, made up of ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Dragados Canada Inc., Fluor Canada Ltd. and AECOM, beat out two other consortia, shortlisted in January 2016. They were CanAm Gateway Partners, which included companies like EllisDon and Bechtel, and Legacy Link Partners, which included SNC-Lavalin and VINCI Concessions.

At one time more than 700 people were working on each proposal, WDBA board chair Dwight Duncan told a news conference attended by Windsor-Detroit media, the contractor and an array of political and government representatives on July 5.

“This is history in the making,” he said of the planned cable-stayed bridge, which will be the longest clear span (between towers) in North America at 853 metres. “This team met all of the technical requirements set out in the request for proposals and is comprised of some of the most recognized leaders in the construction and infrastructure industry worldwide.”

The project is a public-private partnership with the WDBA, a federal crown corporation, and the consortium, which will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the bridge for 30 years. The announcement is subject to financial close, which will take place in late September, with a construction start date that month or early October, Duncan said. Nevertheless, some early construction work should get underway this month.

Construction is “literally days and weeks away,” an ebullient Duncan said.

Also, in September the actual project cost will finally be announced.

Next up for the consortium will be to establish field offices in Windsor and Detroit and invite local companies to submit proposals for equipment and material and begin local hiring.

“There’s a series of steps that we have to go through, but we basically do the full design at our own cost, and this type of effort is tens of millions of dollars of our own investment,” Tom Middlebrook, consortium spokesman and senior vice-president of business development for Dragados said after the announcement. “It was a fantastic process to go through, we’re very thrilled to be here.”

Middlebrook called the project “very unique” given its international nature.

He said a cable-stayed design was selected for several reasons including cost effectiveness and a “better performing bridge structurally as far as efficiency of materials.”
Also, with the local region’s typology, “we felt it was a better solution to go with deep foundations for the towers of the bridge (which will be on land) rather than big counterweights for the suspension bridge,” he described.

The six-lane bridge end to end will be 2.5 kilometres and will feature a multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists. Its lifespan will be 125 years.

The project not only includes the span but the Canadian and U.S. ports of entry (POE) housing customs inspection and less than roughly 400-metre-long ramps connecting the U.S. port to I-75, a major north-south corridor for passenger as well as commercial vehicles, especially for auto parts and other trade.

ACS Infrastructure and Fluor will hold the prime contract, their second in the Windsor area, the first being the six lane Herb Gray Parkway, completed just over two years ago.

The Canadian POE will encompass 53 hectares while its American counterpart will be 68 hectares.

Duncan said the project has been supported by state, provincial and federal Canadian and U.S. governments of all political stripes over the years.

The project, which had its start almost 20 years ago, has also faced as many as 25 court challenges, mainly form the rival Ambassador Bridge company, “and we’ve won every lawsuit,” Duncan said. Another lawsuit is pending this month, but Duncan said, “we will bring every effort to bear on making sure this project continues.”

The Ambassador is also planning its own new six-lane bridge.

The Gordie Howe bridge consortium will take over a footprint already groomed for construction.

The bridge approaches have seen substantial early site work, more advanced in Canada than in the U.S., where much of a neighbourhood had to be relocated.

In Windsor, some $200 million in early construction work has seen a three-kilometre perimeter access road built, 27 kilometres of electrical utilities moved underground or relocated, 750 kilometres of wick drains, three new transmission towers, one million tonnes of aggregate fill and two storm management ponds.

In Detroit, $150 million has been spent on property acquisition, 255 building demolitions and 30,000 feet of electrical relocations.

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