(WINDSOR, ON) – Although there is almost a full year to go before the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority selects a contractor for the billion dollar project to construct the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the Authority has busied itself readying the boggy Canadian side for announcement day.
The work it is doing is called pulling it forward; a plan to take care of a number of details to give the contractor a fairly clean slate so it can concentrate solely on bridge work.
Hundreds of residents turned out Saturday to listen to tour guides point out features of the crossing starting from a place few of them will probably ever want to attend again. A tent, with refreshments, was set up on ground reserved for the Canadian border patrol impound yard.
South of the area, in the far off distance, blue balloons affixed to pylons marked where Highway 401 will end its crossing of Ontario and transfer its users into the Howe’s welcoming toll booths. Tolls will only be collected on the Canadian side for both those leaving and those entering the country.
The tariff, said the guide, will be competitive with those set by the current bridge and tunnel crossings.
North of the tent, the bridge will commence and will rise up 650 metres over the Detroit River before landing in Detroit. An ultimate design for what the bridge will look like, or its style, has yet to be finalized. The top two technical contenders are suspension or cable stayed.
The Ambassador Bridge is a suspension bridge. Its deck is suspended from cables strung from a cable above the deck. Cable stayed bridges have their cables affixed to the towers at either end and not to an overhead cable.
Tourists were told that if the bridge was built a decade ago, the only option would have been suspension. However advances in cable staying have made the technology a viable option.
About all that is known now, is that the Howe will have six traffic lanes plus a combined bicycle and pedestrian lane. Both US and Canadian border agencies have approved the non-vehicular lane.
The guests, most in comfortable shoes, stood on a granular fill which covers most of the 53 hectare site. The mix of sand and tiny crushed rock was a necessity.
Approximately a million tons was needed to stabilize what is largely a bog. A wicking process was used to also release imbedded water.
Other work has included burying a natural gas transmission line and building a 4.5 km perimeter road to allow access to the industrial lands neighbouring the bridge.
Two settling ponds have also been constructed, one for the point-of-entry and the other for the bridge area, to catch run-off storm water. A cleansing process will separate oil and grease from the water before it is released into the ponds.
From there it will travel, by what is called the Broadway Drain, which looks like a canal, and flow into the Detroit River or be diverted to Windsor’s water treatment plant. Guides could not say how much water will be diverted nor divulge about much the Authority will pay for using the municipal service.
Once the contractor is selected, a process of review is underway, and announced next May, it will take about four years before the bridge receives it first vehicle or pedestrian.