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Gordie Howe bridge officials say second wave of COVID-19 won’t delay project

Ron Stang
Gordie Howe bridge officials say second wave of COVID-19 won’t delay project

Officials involved with the Gordie Howe International Bridge project are confident that should a second wave of COVID-19 strike the $5.7-billion, 2.5-kilometre bridge can still reach its completion date of 2024.

“We do have time if things need to be adjusted to do so and still meet our existing target,” said spokeswoman Heather Grondin of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), the bridge operator, during an online community update.

Despite a withdrawal by some subcontractors in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, all services are back on site and any delays have not interfered with the original timeline for construction of the bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

“We’re not behind, we continue to make progress, there has been a need to shift some aspects of the schedule to accommodate mitigation measures in place for COVID, but (contractor) Bridging North America is continuing to work away on that,” added Grondin.

She said the spacious footprint of the project lends itself to social distancing and specific measures have been put in place such as issuing masks, keeping personal meetings to no more than five staff, scheduling virtual meetings and having certain staff work from home.

Meanwhile, tall blue cranes can be seen on both sides of the river – perhaps the first visual evidence that bridge work is taking place.

In Windsor, site preparation has been completed including a four kilometre perimeter access road and the underground installation of Hydro One cables. Some 130,000 wick drains are being installed and more than 1.4 billion of engineered fill dumped with a surcharge settlement of six to nine months.

Construction of the foundations for the hockey stick shaped towers are underway on both the Canadian and American sides. The foundations of each tower consist of 18 26-metre drill shafts.

“On both the Canadian and U.S. sites the 12 shafts for the main tower have been completed with formwork, rebar and concrete pours occurring,” Grondin said.

The 37.5-metre-wide, six-lane bridge, to last 125 years, is being built to ISO 14001 standard with heavy emphasis on lessening the environmental impact.

The two ports of entries, where Canada and U.S. customs facilities will be located, are being designed to meet LEED Silver rating. Bridge LED lighting will be energy efficient.

“The cable stayed design occupies a substantial portion of the altitude range of which most migratory birds fly, so lighting considerations are going to be very important to help reduce risk of collision,” Grondin said.

The use of low intensity blue lights and flashing red lights “are being made to minimize the effects on migratory birds,” she said. Lighting will also be configurated to “reduce spill light” into the night sky.

There will also be a multiuse pedestrian and cycling lane.

The bridge will create a significant international landmark between Windsor and Detroit.

Its clear span will be 853 metres, or half a mile, with no piers in the water.  

It will be the longest main span of any cable stayed bridge on the continent. The main towers will be 220 metres high and the bridge deck’s centre will be 42 metres above water.

The bridge is being dual designed to meet Canada and U.S. standards.

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