Officials: Gordie Howe bridge on track for 2018 build

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Windsor, Ontario — The $2.1 billion Gordie Howe International Bridge remains on track to be constructed beginning in 2018 but has no completion date target.

“We can’t give a completion date, but significant construction will start next year,” said Brad Wieferich, director of the bureau of development for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

On Wednesday, Wieferich was joined by representatives from the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority and Gov. Rick Snyder’s office during a media tour of various bridge construction sites in Detroit and Windsor.

The process of procuring a private-sector partner that will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the project is ongoing, officials said. Responses to the request for proposals from the three bidding proponents are expected in May. Representatives from the bridge authority say the procurement process should be completed by September.

Canada is supplying Michigan’s $550 million share of the bridge between Detroit and Windsor, which will have to be repaid through tolls.

To the naysayers who say they are behind schedule or doubt whether the bridge will even happen, a representative from Snyder’s office says think again.

“We are not behind schedule,” said Andrew Doctoroff, special projects adviser to the governor’s office. “We are exactly where we should be with land acquisitions, and we are very comfortable with where we are right now. Any suggestion that we’re behind schedule on the U.S. side is incorrect.”

At least $350 million of preparatory activities are underway in Canada and the United States. All required permits and approvals have been received, and nearly 200 demolitions on the U.S. side have been completed. Under the heading of property acquisitions in the United States, 93 percent have been acquired, which includes 13 percent of properties under a court order to vacate.

But what about the remaining 7 percent of properties still needed?

“Many of those properties are owned by one owner in particular (Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun) and are subject to litigation,” Doctoroff said. “I’m confident we’ll get them when we need them.”

He said the parcels they need from Moroun entities are “not in the core center,” so it’s not necessary they be acquired by 2018.

“There will not be a delay,” Doctoroff said. “Everything is working as it should, and we are winning lawsuits. Communities are cooperating, and we have great relationships with the city of Detroit and other partners.”

But not everyone shares that enthusiasm.

Resident Steve Toth was a lone protester in southwest Detroit near a construction site at the end of the media tour, saying “residents are not being treated fairly.”

Toth said he was promised $53,000 for his home but has not received any money and was given an eviction notice last week.

“I just want to be treated fairly, and a lot of people do, too,” he said. “ I received an eviction notice last Wednesday and was told to have a nice Thanksgiving.”

State officials say Toth’s home is owned by MDOT after it was acquired through the Michigan Land Bank.

Back on the tour bus, Doctoroff disputed much of what Toth said, saying: “We are very familiar with Mr. Toth. He is a single example of a homeowner who is not willing to cooperate. We’ve been trying as hard as we can to treat him with as much sensitivity as we can.”

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