Peters touts Gordie Howe International Bridge will be 'model for ports of entry'

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Chris Magnus, commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, detailed plans Friday for a new customs plaza and safety upgrades as a second international bridge is erected between Detroit and Windsor.

The new customs plaza for the Gordie Howe International Bridge, expected to be located off of Jefferson Avenue in southwest Detroit, is planned to be large enough to fit more than 100 football fields, Peters said. It is also expected to have more advanced technology screening than the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit and Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Peters and Magnus said.

"People will realize that when this opens, it will be a model for ports across the country in the future," said Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

Construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge continued Friday, July 15, 2022 in Detroit. The second bridge between Detroit and Windsor is expected to be completed in 2024.

The bridge's towers, which have been under construction since 2019, are expected to be completed by the end of this year and span 262 feet.

Peters said additional personnel and equipment are needed to secure ports of entry on the northern border and maintain Michigan’s status as a hub for international commerce. The senator said he helped secure more than $90 million for non-intrusive inspection systems relying on sensors to screen cargo coming across and $3.8 billion to help CBP upgrade border facilities.

Peters secured the first federal funding, $15 million for inspection and screening systems for the Gordie Howe bridge, in 2019. He has introduced legislation to require CBP to hire 600 additional officers a year until the agency’s staffing needs are met. 

"We know when this bridge opens and the facility is operational, they will have the absolutely best and top-of-the-line security systems put in place immediately," said Peters, who who chairs the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Peters hosted Magnus as they toured the construction site of the Gordie Howe bridge that's expected to open in 2024. Once completed, the bridge will join the Ambassador Bridge in serving the nation's second-busiest border crossing.

"If Michigan were a country, we would be the second-largest trading partner to Canada and that's what drives us forward and is an essential project to the future of our state," Peters said.

The Ambassador Bridge port entry also has X-ray vehicle screenings, said Magnus, a Michigan native. But "the complexities of what's being done (at Gordie Howe) are more complicated," he said, but wouldn't share more details. "This technology uses biometrics that continues to evolve and expand."

Modifying older bridge ports of entry is a challenge, Magnus said, adding there's limited space and most were not designed for the advanced technology that's being implemented, including truck X-ray screenings, license plate readers and electronic manifests.

(Right to Left) Chris Magnus, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Senator Gary Peters field questions on construction site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge on July 15th 2022 in Detroit, Michigan.

"It's great to have a facility that's designed to be operational in this way from Day One. And we'll have a greater capacity as technology continues to evolve to be able to accommodate the progress," Magnus said about the Gordie Howe span. 

Peters said he is committed to funding security improvement through the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package passed this year "so we can get state of the art screening in all of our facilities all across the country, but that will take time."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_