Duggan: Howe Bridge agreement reached
Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan announced Friday the city has reached an agreement with the state to sell land, assets and some streets for more than $48 million to be used in the project to build a second bridge between Windsor and Detroit.
Duggan said the city will use proceeds from the sale for related neighborhood programs, job training and health monitoring, including $26 million to help Delray residents voluntarily relocate to renovated houses elsewhere in the city.
The mayor made the announcement during a news conference held at the Delray Recreation Center on Leigh near Interstate 75 and Dearborn Street on Detroit’s southwest side. He was joined by state officials, community leaders and representatives from the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, the nonprofit entity managing the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.
“This is a major step forward in the construction of Gordie Howe Bridge,” Duggan said. “This is eliminating one of the last obstacles.”
The Howe bridge will provide a second highway link for heavy trucks at the busiest U.S.-Canada crossing point, the second span to the aging Ambassador Bridge owned by Manuel “Matty” Moroun.
The $2.1 billion bridge is slated to open in 2020 and construction is scheduled to begin in 2018. Canada is supplying Michigan’s $550 million share of the bridge, which will have to be repaid through tolls.
The Rev. Kevin Casillas, pastor of the First Latin American Baptist Church on Fort, thanked Duggan and other officials for hammering out the agreement.
“Today is a good day in our decade-long fight, advocating for residents of Delray and southwest Detroit,” he said. “Residents will benefit from health-impact assessments and air monitoring in our community. Residents will benefit from job training. Residents will benefit from having the option of relocating to another fully updated house elsewhere in the city.”
Under the agreement, the city will sell the Michigan Department of Transportation 36 parcels of land, underground assets and about five miles of streets in the bridge’s footprint for $48.4 million, Duggan said.
He said the city plans to use the money primarily to pay for four purposes:
■$33 million will be invested in a neighborhood improvement fund. Duggan said $26 million should be used help Delray residents relocate. He also recommends using $9 million of that to improve houses north of I-75 near the exit ramps for the bridge. The upgrades include central air conditioning units with filtration.
■$10 million will be for a job training initiative to prepare Detroit residents to fill both construction and operations jobs.
■$2.4 million will be invested in air and health monitoring in southwest Detroit over the next 10 years.
■$3 million will be given to the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department and Public Lighting Authority to purchase assets in the project’s footprint.
Duggan said he plans to set up a real estate office in Delray to help homeowners who want to move relocate.
“But no one is going to pressure anybody,” he said. “If someone wants to stay, then they’re welcome to stay.”
The mayor said the agreement and its four component contracts require the City Council’s approval.
State Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, who represents the area where the bridge will be built, as well as Ecorse and River Rouge, teared up when talking about the agreement.
“We are proud to stand up here today,” she said. “The agreement announced today between the city and the state of Michigan and the community initiatives are major victories on critical issues that residents have been fighting for for a decade.”
Gov. Rick Snyder also praised the news Friday.
“Mayor Duggan’s announcement today is the result of several years of successful collaboration between the state, the city, Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority and numerous stakeholders, including community leaders,” he said in a statement. “Everyone listened to one another, worked hard to understand concerns, and forged a partnership based on solutions. This shows that by working together, we can achieve great things for everyone.”
Andy Doctoroff, special projects adviser to Snyder, noted the agreement announced Friday doesn’t not complete the property acquisition process for the bridge.
“But the fact of the matter is property acquisition is on schedule, MDOT is doing an awesome job and we just have to continue doing what’s necessary to acquire all of the several hundred parcels that are in the footprint,” he said. “This (agreement), of course, is an important component of it and that’s why we’re thrilled about this.”
He said the state has acquired about 70 percent of the parcels it needs, not including Detroit’s parcels in the agreement.
Doctoroff said Friday’s deal for Detroit’s parcels will give the state all the land it needs in Detroit for the project, provided it’s approved by the City Council. They still need land elsewhere.