A second bridge connecting Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mich. has been a long time coming, says the president of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).
“It’s an extremely important infrastructure project in the sense that any cross-border transportation that works for Canada with the U.S. is extremely important, given that they’re our biggest trade partner,” said CCA president Michael Atkinson.
It was recently announced that an agreement has been signed between Canada and the State of Michigan toward building a new publicly owned bridge crossing the Detroit River, which is expected to increase trade and investment between Canada and the U.S.
There has been political pressure from the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, which currently links the two cities, to prevent the second bridge from being built.
“They finally found some creative way to get approved, which is great because now we’ve got a parkway that’s not going to be a road to nowhere as everyone kept calling it. It’s going to have a bridge at the end of it,” said Jim Lyons, Windsor Construction Association (WCA) executive director, referencing the Windsor-Essex Parkway which will link Highway 401 with the new bridge.
The crossing agreement establishes the framework for Canada’s and Michigan’s roles and responsibilities for the construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the new international crossing.
The $1 billion bridge project is expected to create 10,000 to 15,000 construction jobs in Ontario and Michigan.
“I was happy to see that they were able to make an agreement with the State of Michigan to ensure that Canadian products like steel will be open to use there and that Buy American provisions won’t preclude Canadian products. That was also an epic win for the Canadian industry there,” said Atkinson.
With the signing of the agreement, Canada and Michigan can now proceed with the next steps of the project, which include further design work and property acquisition on the U.S. side before construction can begin. Canada will fund up to $550 million for Michigan’s costs for the road approaching the crossing. In exchange, Canada will collect Michigan’s bridge tolls until the funds are recouped.
The new project includes the bridge, the Canadian and U.S. inspection plazas, and an interchange with Interstate-75 with construction expected to take four to five years.
The project will be funded by the Government of Canada, though the U.S. plaza will be the responsibility of the U.S. government.
The private sector is also expected to contribute to the project through a public-private partnership.
Lyons hopes the WCA will have some input on the consortia chosen to construct the project.
“There are certainly some recommendations that we’d like to be able to make to the federal government,” he said.
Over one-third of Ontario-U.S. trade flows across the border between Michigan and Ontario. The Canadian business community has been demanding a second bridge between Windsor and Detroit for several years.
In 2010, Canada and U.S. bilateral trade was close to $645 billion, with more than $1.7 billion worth of goods and services crossing the Canada-U.S. border every day.
Atkinson said it’s important to ensure Canada’s infrastructure is built and maintained at a standard that is appropriate to allow Canada to become competitive, productive and prosperous in the future.
“To simply sit back and say ‘we can’t afford this or we can’t afford that and we’re going to transfer that problem to a future generation’ is not the way to go,” he said.
The Building Canada Plan, the nation’s first long-term national infrastructure plan, expires in March 2014 and the federal government has committed to bringing in a new long-term replacement.
Atkinson said it is important to see details on this plan announced in the 2013 budget to allow for a seamless transition.