Big names from Europe and the Americas in running for $2.1bn US-Canada bridge

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority announced last week that three consortiums have been formally requested to bid for the job of designing, building and operating the Gordie Howe International Bridge over the Detroit River.

The $2.1bn bridge, which may be cable-stayed or suspended, will take over from the Ambassador bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, which presently carries about 2.5 million cargo trucks a year, around 30% of all lorry traffic between the US and Canada.

The shortlisted teams are:

  • Bridging North America, which contains 14 companies. This is led by the Canadian arm of Spanish giant ACS and its Dragados and Turner Construction subsidiaries. It also includes Fluor Canada, Canadian contractor Aecon and US engineer Aecom; design is by Toronto architect Moriyama & Teshima and New York-based Smith-Miller + Hawkinson.
  • Legacy Link Partners. This is led by Canadian engineer SNC-Lavalin and Vinci with finance from public-private partnership specialist John Laing Investments. The consulting engineer is Nebraskan firm HDR, and the architect will be Berlin-based Leonhardt, Andrä and Partners if the bridge is cable-stayed and Aas-Jakobsen of Oslo if a suspended deck is chosen.
  • The third team is CanAm Gateway Partners, led by Bechtel with design and engineering by a joint venture between UK companies Arup and Mott McDonald Design, together with Denmark’ NORR Associates and Bergmann Associates, which is based in Rochester, New York.

The crossing will connect Interstates 75 and 94 in Michigan with the newly built Herb Gray Parkway connection in Ontario. This will allow faster traffic flow than the current configuration, which connects to city streets on the Canadian side.

The bridge was first proposed by Canadian authorities in 2004, but was opposed by Detroit businessman Manuel Moroun, who owns the Ambassador.

A Canadian federal Crown corporation, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, was established in 2012 to handle the procurement process. The project was approved by the US government in April 2013. The following month, the Canadian government allocated $25m to begin land acquisition on the Detroit side.

The authority said in early 2015 that it hoped to issue the request for proposals at the end of that year, but this was delayed by the need to assemble the site on the American side.

Construction Dive website reports that one issue was the need to acquire a 42-acre plot of land owned by Mr Mouron using eminent domain powers. All in all, the state will pay $370m for some 30 packets of land.

Andy Doctoroff, special project adviser to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, said in a statement: "It is great news because it demonstrates that the Gordie Howe International Bridge project is moving full steam ahead, and it reflects the fantastic working relationship that Michigan has with Canada and all of its project partners."

Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s minister of infrastructure and communities, said: "The Gordie Howe International Bridge is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in North America because of its vital role in maintaining and growing Canada’s most important trade relationship and closest partnership."

The bridge will be named after Saskatchewan ice hockey player Gordie Howe, who was best known for his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings.

Image: Work under way on Ontario’s Herb Gray Parkway (Creative Commons)

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