95% of land for Gordie Howe bridge has been acquired

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Windsor, Ontario — The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority said on Tuesday nearly 95 percent of the property needed for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project, and the span remains on track for construction to begin in 2018.

Stephanie Campeau, with the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, answers questions from John Bonenfent of Windsor.

Bridge authority representatives said 636 land parcels have been acquired by the Michigan Department of Transportation, leading to 229 residential and 88 business relocations.

As of April 1, 235 structures have been or are in the process of being demolished, representatives said. It’s unclear how many still must be cleared until land acquisitions are finalized by September.

“We’re aware there have been litigation and lawsuits that happen from time to time,” said Mark Butler, communications director for the authority. “Any major project like this are going to have ups and downs. We will have all the parcels we need by September.”

More than $350 million of preparatory work is underway in Canada and United States, including nearly 6 miles of electric and gas line relocations, eight new sewer crossings and replacements on a portion beneath Interstate 75 and the clearing of 4,000 trees.

Butler said cost estimates vary on clearing land in the Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit. The authority won’t have a time line for final demolitions until a contractor is selected in September and financial negotiations.

A map shows the proposed location of the Gordie Howe International Bridge and the new ports of entry in relation to the Ambassador bridge.

“ ...We don’t talk about property acquisition because we don’t have all the figures in yet,” Butler said.

The updates came as more than 100 community members gathered Tuesday in Windsor to learn about plans for the next six months for the $2.1 billion project. Canada is supplying Michigan’s $550 million share of costs for the bridge between Detroit and Windsor, which will be repaid through tolls.

Much of the discussion Tuesday focused on green space, bike paths and using Canadian steel.

“Michigan taxpayers aren’t paying for it, we’re paying for it,” said Alan Robshaw, 61, of Windsor. “Our labor and Canadian steel should be used to make the steel for the bridge ... Michigan shouldn’t benefit from it when we’re paying for it.”

Heather Grondin, bridge authority vice president of communications, said Michigan wouldn’t see any of the toll revenue until after the bridge was paid off. Steel for the bridge will be made in the United States and and Canada, she said.

Grondin said the U.S. side will have 36 toll booths on the six-lane bridge and Canada will have 22. She said a duty free shop has not been planned and tolls will be set at a competitive rate to those of the Ambassador Bridge.

An update will be held 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at El Bosque, 6705 W. Lafayette in Detroit.

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun has been fighting the proposed Gordie Howe bridge in state and federal courts. Last year, state officials sued his Detroit International Bridge Co. to acquire 20 to 30 parcels of land in Delray near the proposed span.

In October, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. declared Gov. Rick Snyder’s deal with Canada to construct the bridge was legal.

Butler said he suspects there will be more questions about Moroun’s plans for a twin Ambassador bridge. “We’re looking at ways to measure the environmental impact of air pollution ... by having freeway-to-freeway access, you’re going to cut down on traffic, large port of entry ... we have ideas and methods in place.”