Detroit-Windsor Tunnel construction project delayed

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Construction scheduled for this summer in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel has been delayed until next year, according to officials.

The mile-long tunnel initially was slated to close during off-peak hours beginning in August to allow crews to replace concrete ceiling slabs as well as to perform electrical, communications, lighting and masonry work, officials announced Wednesday.

“There will be no closures of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel this year,” tunnel president Neal Belitsky said Wednesday. “The renovations will happen, the project just needs to be re-engineered before we begin, but our travelers can rest assured that once the schedule is confirmed they will be notified and advised of the new work schedule.”

The delay comes after officials decided against using a general contractor for the project, Belitsky told The Detroit News.

“It appears that it’s going to be more efficient and more cost effective for us to separate those disciplines, so we’ll have a electrical contract, a communications contact, a masonry contract and a probably a mechanical contract,” he said. “Those will all be bid out separately and we will probably manage each of those contracts ourselves.”

No estimated cost for the project will be available until the individual contractors are hired, Belitsky said.

Officials on Wednesday did not release a detailed timetable for repairs. The team plans to use local media, tourism and business associations as well as government entities to keep commuters informed about construction updates.

“We hope to start work maybe in late 2016 but definitely 2017,” Belitsky said. “The majority of the work will be behind the scenes. We do anticipate some closures but we will let the traveling public know the schedule for those closures.

“We don’t have an idea of that now.”

The project initially was expected to begin in May and conclude in December, with 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday closures beginning in August.

The ceiling will be replaced using various prefabricated, concrete panels built off-site, officials have said.

“On the tunnels that are designed like this, the ceiling has a lifespan. And before it gets to end of life, this is just a preventive, precautionary measure where we are replacing the ceiling,” Belitsky said earlier this year. “We’ll be open on weekends. We’ll be open for our commuter rush in the morning. And the contractors are going to be advised that there are days due to special events that they won’t be able to work.”

The Detroit-Windsor tunnel was built in 1928 and 1929 and opened in 1930. Its length is 5,160 feet and it can handle 2,000 vehicles per hour. It is the only international, vehicular, underwater crossing in the world, officials said.