ܽƵapp

2 sides of Gordie Howe Bridge weeks away from being linked as project aims for '25 debut

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — The U.S and Canadian sides of the Gordie Howe International Bridge are about 85 feet apart now, and the international span will be joined by end of summer if things proceed as planned, bridge officials said Tuesday.

It's the latest sign the international span between Detroit and Windsor over the Detroit River is on track to open in fall 2025, bridge officials said as they allowed a rare media preview of the $6.4 billion project. When finished, it will cap a decades-long dream of creating another link between the two vital trading partners.

The bridge deck of the Gordie Howe International Bridge is expected to be completed sometime this summer, bridge officials said Tuesday during a media tour on the Detroit side of the span.

The first of the final pieces that will connect the two sides of the bridge should be installed around the end of June, officials said. It will take up to four to six weeks to complete the installation of the last deck piece of the six-lane bridge, which also has a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian path.

"We now are really just starting the final phase in getting the bridge deck connected," said Heather Grondin, chief relations officer of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, just before a media tour.

The target date to complete construction of the bridge remains September 2025. Massive infrastructure changes of roads, freeways on both sides of the border also are on track to be completed by then. But officials didn't give a specific date when the bridge will open to the public beyond fall 2025.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge is expected to be completed by September 2025, bridge officials said, but a specific date wasn't given because officials said they would need to test the span before opening it to the public.

"There will be a little bit of time after construction is completed, where we will be doing our final testing to ensure everything is working," Grondin said.

More than 11,000 workers have been part of building the new bridge since construction began in 2018, according to officials. Jayne Griffor, a labor foreman from Marysville, Mich., is one of them.

"I was afraid of heights when I first started this job," Griffor said. "First time I went up the scaffold, I prayed out loud. But now I'm used to it."

Seeing the two sides of the bridge deck coming closing to joining is "real exciting," she said. "To see the Canadian workers on the side just a few feet away now, it's been a long time coming."

It's been more than 25 years since the idea of a second bridge across the Detroit River began to be discussed among U.S. and Canadian officials.

Once it's completed, the Gordie Howe bridge will be the longest "cable-stayed" bridge in North America at 2,798 feet, officials said. A cable-stayed bridge has one or more towers from which cables support the bridge deck. A distinctive feature of such bridges is that the cables form a fan-like pattern.

The span will connect Detroit and Windsor by linking Interstate 75 and Interstate 96 in Michigan with the new extension of Highway 401 in Ontario Province.

An estimated 25% of all trade between Canada and the U.S. goes through the Windsor-Detroit corridor, according to bridge officials.

In June 2012, the Canadian government and the state of Michigan signed the Crossing Agreement, which created the framework for Canada’s and Michigan’s roles and responsibilities for the binational infrastructure project.

The agreement provided a framework for Canada to design, construct, finance, operate and maintain the new international bridge crossing between Windsor and Detroit. The bridge will be co-owned by the government of Canada and the state of Michigan, while the Michigan I-75 interchange will be owned by the state of Michigan.

Equipment is moved into place as continues at the Gordie Howe International Bridge, in Detroit, May 14, 2024.

The second span across the Detroit River was fiercely opposed by the Moroun family, owners of the nearby private Ambassador Bridge, as redundant and unnecessary. But officials from Canada and Michigan, including then Gov. Rick Snyder, pushed for the new bridge in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to help with growing U.S.-Canadian trade and as a hedge against an incident possibly closing the Ambassador Bridge and its commercial traffic.

Construction began in June 2018.

After the bridge project is completed, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will receive all toll revenues, which the Canadian government expects to help recoup the costs of building the bridge. The authority will repay the consortium funds it is financing through bonds to build the bridge. Michigan taxpayers are not paying for the project.

laguilar@detroitnews.com