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Gordie Howe bridge on track to open in 2024 despite construction delays

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Gordie Howe International Bridge project remains on target to open by the end of 2024 despite the COVID-19 crisis that slowed construction, officials said Friday.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority held an online community meeting via Facebook Live to give the public an annual update on the project.

Continuing construction along the Detroit River on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, U.S. side, in Detroit, Michigan  on November 20, 2020.

Plans for the project began in the fall of 2018, and "work has been able to continue throughout this entire time period at the site," said Heather Grondin, vice president of communications for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. The $4.4 billion project is touted by officials as one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America.

"Despite the need to change the way we all both live and work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not slowed down," said Bryce Phillips, CEO of Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.

He added they have made significant progress toward making the bridge open to traffic by the end of 2024: "The way this project unfolds, detailed design and construction go in parallel. You’ll see it unfold simultaneously."

Continuing construction on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, north of W. Jefferson with the Ambassador Bridge in the background, in Detroit, Michigan  on November 20, 2020.

Two massive tower cranes have been installed at both the Canadian and U.S. bridge sites to aid in the construction of the two 772-foot towers. Officials anticipate the bridge foundation will be completed before the holidays this year and work on bridge towers will begin in the new year.

"So structures will begin to be visible on both sides of the river by late winter and early spring," Phillips said.

Developer Leslie Martin said once the towers are placed, the backspan will be under construction toward the shore.

Continuing construction along the Detroit River on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, U.S. side, in Detroit, Michigan  on November 20, 2020.

"Once the towers start to progress up the road deck level, then you’ll see the bridge deck start to head out toward the center of the river," Martin said. "It will be built from the top rather than from lifting sections from the river. You’ll see progressively the bridge extended out from each of the towers until it meets in the middle."

In Michigan, the demolition of five pedestrian bridges and three road bridges over Interstate 75 is complete. Work over the next several months will focus on the reconstruction of the three new road bridges over I-75. The new bridges are anticipated to be complete in spring of 2021, officials said.

CFO Mark Amant said of its allocated $577 million, the board ended the quarter with a surplus of $460 million, which will be used to fund capital costs. Canada has agreed to cover Michigan's construction costs in exchange for future toll revenues.

On Tuesday, the project team launched the 2021 community organization investment initiative as an opportunity for nonprofits in Windsor and Del Ray to apply for funding

Truck bays at Central Transport along W. Jefferson in Detroit, Michigan  on November 20, 2020.

"We continue our ongoing commitment to consult with our host communities… and (that) has helped shape the project to what it is today," Phillips said. "With regards to a legacy fund, we have heard the community speak of and this remains on our radar and options continue to be explored."

Bridge authority spokesman Mark Butler said Friday that the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, through the Michigan Department of Transportation, has acquired all the property required for the project.

There is one piece of Detroit land under litigation near the project, which officials declined to comment on Friday.

The authority is working closely with Michigan state officials, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the city of Detroit and Canadian officials. Authority officials said 70% of the construction hours will happen from 2021 through 2023.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_