Gordie Howe bridge still set for 2020 opening

Keith Laing and Leonard N. Fleming
Detroit News

Washington — Planners are making “steady progress” on the $2.1 billion bridge between Detroit and Canada that is to be named after hockey legend Gordie Howe, who died Friday, according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s point person on the project.

Andrew Doctoroff, special projects adviser to the governor, said in an interview with The Detroit News on Friday that construction on the Gordie Howe International bridge is scheduled to begin next year. The opening date is being targeted for 2020.

“We are making steady progress on all aspects of the bridge,” Doctoroff said. “Land acquisition in Michigan is well underway, and we are working with our Canadian partners to make sure there is an RFP (request for proposal) in the near future.”

The bridge proposal calls for building a new span over the Detroit River that would provide an additional connection between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, in Canada.

The namesake for the bridge, Howe, died shortly before 8 a.m. Friday, according to an announcement from the Detroit Red Wings. Howe, 88, was a legendary figure in Detroit sports and widely acclaimed as one of the greatest hockey players in history.

The new bridge, which honors the Floral, Saskatchewan-born ex-Detroit Red Wings star and hockey Hall of Famer, is to be operated through a public-private partnership. It will be located two miles downriver from the existing Ambassador Bridge, which is owned by Grosse Pointe billionaire Matty Moroun.

Moroun also is working to build a new span between Detroit and Windsor that would be beside the Ambassador Bridge.

Doctoroff said officials in Michigan and Canada are focused “on our own project,” which he said is “going full-steam ahead.”

Mark Butler, a spokesman for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, also said work is moving quickly on the proposed Gordie Howe bridge, although he said much of it is happening behind the scenes.

“The procurement process is well underway,” he said in an email. “Three international teams have been shortlisted and will be invited to the Request for Proposal stage. We anticipate release of the RFP to the proponents in the near term.

“This is an extremely complicated project and procurement process with many moving parts.”

The governments of Canada and Michigan announced that the bridge between Windsor and Detroit would be named after Howe in May 2015.

Michael Cautillo, president and CEO of Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, said planners of the proposed Howe bridge were saddened by Howe’s death.

“I offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” he said in a statement. “We are proud to be constructing the new bridge in his name. It is my sincere hope that this bridge will continue Mr. Hockey’s legacy of building extraordinary goodwill between these two countries.”

Canada is slated to front Michigan’s $550 million share of the bridge, which will have to be repaid through tolls.

The Canadians also are financing the construction of a $250 million U.S. customs plaza in southwest Detroit after Snyder’s longstanding funding request from the Obama administration and Congress faltered.

Staff writer Gregg Krupa contributed to this report.

klaing@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing