Detroit River bridge team issues first significant job postings

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

The authority overseeing construction of the planned $2.1-billion Detroit River bridge is poised to issue its first substantial job postings for the project.

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority on Friday will open up the application process for nearly 20 positions — most related to establishing the executive team that will oversee construction of the Detroit River International Crossing bridge that will connect the industrial communities of Brighton Beach and Delray.

“Since the formation of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority in July of last year, the organization has been focused on making the WDBA operational,” said CEO Michael Cautillo. “One of the first orders of business was to start the recruitment process for individuals to work on this exciting project.”

In October, the WDBA advertised for several senior executive positions which are scheduled to be announced shortly.

The new postings will include jobs in the area of engineering, financial, human resources and administrative assistants.

“As operational needs are identified, further job postings will be published,” Cautillo said.

Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, called it good news that job positions are starting to be rolled out by WDBA, but believes the primary hiring blitz to build the DRIC bridge is at least another 12 to 18 months away.

“They are manning the office and getting the technical expertise they need to get the tenders out and evaluate the RFQ (request for qualifications),” he said. “That hasn’t been issued yet and then they will need a reasonable amount of time for evaluation.”

There will next be a short list created by the WDBA of major construction consortiums with each asked to assemble a Request for Proposal (RFP) to build the bridge, Lyons said.

That will again take some to time for the WDBA team to study and decide on the winning bid, he said.

The DRIC project includes four components — a six-lane bridge, a Canadian plaza with border inspection and toll facilities, a U.S. plaza with border inspection, plus a feeder road and interchange with I-75 in Detroit.

The tender process and selection of contractors could be more complicated than the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway because two countries involved with the bridge project, Lyons said.

The WDBA has retained a local recruitment firm to handle the hiring process for the current postings, Cautillo said.

Those interested in learning of the exact jobs and applying should look online at thejobshoppe.com.

“We encourage talented individuals in the local communities to apply for these and upcoming positions,” Cautillo said.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

New Michigan senator poised to lead fight and secure new bridge plaza funding

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

Newly elected Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) listed securing $250 million for a U.S. Customs plaza for the new Detroit River bridge as a top priority Tuesday just before being sworn into office.

Peters, a Detroit-area congressman elected as freshman senator in November to replace retiring political stalwart Carl Levin, has long been a primary advocate to get construction started on the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project.

In his new role as senator, he called the DRIC bridge critical for both the Michigan and U.S. economies during a conference call with reporters.

“The international trade crossing is perhaps the most important infrastructure project in the whole country,” Peters said. “I will continue to push very aggressively for that.”

Peters has already secured a seat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — a key entity in Washington that decides spending and legislative priorities.

Peters indicated Tuesday he is also working hard to develop a relationship with Homeland Security boss Jeh Johnson — who DRIC supporters have been tirelessly lobbying to put money in the budget for the customs plaza in Detroit.

“(Johnson) just saw me in the hallway, raised his hand, and said ‘I know, I know, the bridge, the bridge,’” Peters said. “He knows where I’m coming from. It’s a priority. It’s something I’m going to continue to push very hard for.”

Peters will also sit on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, among others.

Committees are “quite influential” in terms of decision-making in Washington, said Bill Anderson, a Boston native and director of the University of Windsor’s cross-border institute.

“It varies from committee to committee, but in the American system, most of the give and take takes place in committees,” he said. “Whether you are in the House or Senate, getting a seat on the right committees is something every legislator really strives for.

“(Peters) having a seat on Homeland Security is a great thing. He can be a strong voice on the (bridge) issue. I hope he not only can appeal to the Senate, but also administration (under President Obama) in his own party.”

Peters also spoke at length Tuesday about ongoing concerns of petroleum coke — a byproduct from Canada’s oilsands. He was a political leader over a year ago to help remove massive piles of petcoke from the riverfront in Detroit.

Peters indicated he remains opposed to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. largely because of the petcoke issue.

“Petcoke on the Detroit River was not handled properly — it was blowing into people’s homes and businesses,” he said. “Detroit was just an example of what may happen if the Keystone pipeline goes all the way into New Orleans.

“We need a study on petcoke to determine its effects and best practices on how to handle it. I want to go from no standards to best standards.”

Local MP Brian Masse (NDP–Windsor-West) said having a seat on such influential committees gives Peters a chance to “steer the ship” and set the agenda on “issues he wants to focus on.”

“Having this (Windsor-Detroit) border reinforced in Washington is critical,” Masse said. “It has not been getting the attention it deserves. Having him there can make a difference. Just raising the issues and bringing it there is a critical component to getting any change.

“If someone can do this, it would be him. I’m confident in his abilities. He will bring this region to Washington. He is one of those type of guys. He has a real genuine interest in the area.”

Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Chamber — also active in lobbying to build the DRIC bridge — believes it will definitely make a difference with Peters in place as “someone who has really been engaged on the issue.”

He cited Peters’ being able to secure a seat on the homeland security committee, previously introducing legislation last term as a congressman to get funding for the bridge plaza, plus his growing ties with Johnson as positive signs.

Baruah said he believes it won’t be necessary for Canada to pay for the DRIC customs plaza — as Ottawa hinted it will do if delays continue.

“I really don’t think it will come to that,” Baruah said. “We have been working closely with the (Michigan) governor (Rick Snyder) and we think there are things afoot to ensure Canada does not have to pay for it.

“That would be embarrassing if that were the case. Canadians have already done a lot of heavy lifting on this project. Our position is this is U.S. infrastructure required for the U.S. government, so the U.S. government should pay for it.”

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Eddie Francis named to international bridge authority

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has been named to the international authority that will oversee the construction of the new publicly owned $1-billion bridge connecting Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.

Francis, who did not seek re-election in last month’s municipal election, is the last of six members to be named to the authority. The appointment takes effect Dec. 1.

Craig S. Rix was also named to the board of directors of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) for a term of three years.

The international authority oversees construction while the WDBA will oversee operations once complete.

“Mr. Francis is keenly aware of the issues and challenges that face the community. I also warmly welcome Mr. Rix to the board of directors of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. Their experience will greatly benefit the WDBA and International Authority as they build the new bridge,” Mark McQueen, chairperson of the board of directors said in a release.

Francis is the only local representative on the authority that is designed to ensure the Canada-Michigan agreement to build the new crossing is followed.

“I commend the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority for its excellent choice in appointing Mr. Eddie Francis to the International Authority,” Watson said in a news release. “As long-time City of Windsor Mayor, Mr. Francis has been a key player on this file since the beginning. His experience and knowledge, combined with the public policy and governance expertise of Mr.Rix, ensure that the two authorities are well prepared to continue working toward the building of this vital, job-creating infrastructure project that is the future new bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.”

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder named five members back in July.

Kristine Burr and Genevieve Gagnon were appointed by Raitt. At that time, one Canadian was still to be named.

Americans Michael D. Hayes, Birgit M. Klohs and Matt Rizik were appointed by the U.S.

The group of six will oversee and approve key steps in the procurement process for the new crossing. It will also monitor compliance of the Windsor-Detroit Authority with the crossing agreement, signed by Canada and Michigan in 2012.

The bridge is expected to open in 2020.

The total cost of the project would be about $4 billion Cdn, including work on freeway interchanges, customs plazas in both countries and infrastructure work.

The new bridge will have six lanes and border inspection on both sides of the Detroit River, Raitt previously said.

The U.S. has yet to announce funding for its customs plaza in Detroit. Watson was mum on the progress of that facility.

Officials said Monday that the biggest hurdles now are time and procuring resources.

The Ambassador Bridge, privately owned by Matty Moroun, is 85 years old and has four lanes.

Originally posted by CBC News

Purchase of first U.S. properties for new border bridge close

The Windsor Star
Dave Battagello

Detroit’s city council is being asked to approve the sale of 301 properties needed for a new border crossing bridge to Windsor.

They will be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side if Detroit council approves the request by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, as expected within the next 10 days.

The properties are largely vacant, “tax-reverted” parcels with a total price tag of $1.4 million.

The state of Michigan would be the new owner of the properties, which the Canadian government would buy from it for the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project. Ottawa has budgeted $631 million over the next two years for the project, including the land purchases.

Canada has committed to paying Michigan’s share of the project cost, up to $550 million, to buy land and build a feeder road linking the bridge plaza in Detroit to the I-75 freeway.

The government expects to recoup its investment through tolls.

The Windsor-Detroit Detroit Bridge Authority was established last month to get the project moving. It has already staged a handful of meetings and has plans to establish an office in Windsor and begin hiring about three dozen staff in the coming weeks.

“The WDBA continues to work with our Michigan colleagues to advance this important project,” said authority CEO Michael Cautillo said Thursday. “All involved are encouraged that the issue will be considered by Detroit’s council.”

The DRIC bridge, scheduled to open in 2020, will link the downriver industrial communities of Brighton Beach in Windsor and Delray in Detroit.

Nearly all property required on the Canadian side for the project has been acquired by Transport Canada.

In total, there are roughly 1,000 residential and commercial properties that need to be expropriated and purchased for the bridge, plaza and feeder roads in Delray.

It is anticipated the overall cost for those properties will be about $300 million — roughly the same amount spent in Windsor to buy land for the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway.

The parkway – the new border feeder highway that will link with the DRIC bridge – is expected to be completed late next year.

Originally posted by The Windsor Star

Orr asks Detroit council to approve $1.4M land sale for bridge to Canada

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr resubmitted an order to city council today to sell 301 city-owned properties for $1.4 million for the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor.

The council has 10 days to vote on the land sale to the state of Michigan. If the council rejects the deal, it must come up with a better plan that achieves similar benefits. In that case, a state emergency loan board would choose between Orr’s plan and the council’s alternative.

The council was scheduled to vote on the land transfer in late July, but Orr pulled back the request after council members and community advocates pressed for a community benefits agreement to be attached to the sale. The properties are tax-reverted and mostly vacant.

A new, non-binding agreement was attached to the land sale and community benefits can be addressed through future agreements required for the bridge project, according to representatives from the state who attended today’s council meeting.

The Canadian government is funding most of the bridge project’s costs. The new, government-owned international bridge from Detroit to Windsor — known as the New International Trade Crossing — could put thousands of people to work in southeast Michigan and revitalize the trade corridor with Canada. It would connect highways in the two cities, relieving traffic congestion for commercial trucks and other vehicles.

Council members still expressed concerns about community benefits despite the state’s assurances today.

Specifically, the makeup of the recently appointed international authority that will approve bridge project agreements was questioned. The six-member board has no representatives who live in the city, much less the Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit impacted by the bridge construction.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said the board’s lack of a community representative “raises a red flag.”

“When there was the opportunity to make sure, to ensure, someone from this community had some direct input, that was not taken,” Jenkins said.

The three Michigan representatives appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the International Authority are Michael Hayes, president and CEO of the Midland Center for the Arts and a former vice president with Dow Chemical; Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of the Right Place, a west Michigan economic development agency, and Matt Rizik, the chief tax officer of Rock Ventures and a former longtime partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The other three board members are Canadian.

Snyder wanted to make sure his appointments had a strong background in economic development and project management, Andrew Doctoroff, senior advisor for transportation initiatives for the state of Michigan, told the council today. At the same time, Snyder wants to make sure the community has input in the project, he said.

A community advisory council will be formed to interact with the International Authority overseeing the project.

For community advocates, the project must include requirements for local hiring during construction and for operation of the bridge, and clean-up of any contaminated sites in the neighborhood. A community benefits agreement also could address potential pollution increases and a reinvestment of money from the land sale into the neighborhood for parks and other improvements.

The council will hold a public meeting at 2 p.m. on Monday at city hall to discuss the proposed land sale and the bridge project.

Originally posted by the: Detroit Free Press

Canada’s new consul general is determined to build a new Detroit River bridge

I had a conversation yesterday with Douglas George, the Canadian government’s new consul general in Detroit.

For Canada, this area is an economic region important enough to merit a mini-embassy. Ottawa has a vast suite of offices in the Renaissance Center, and a large staff, some busy with immigration matters, and the rest primarily with economic and trade questions.

One indication of how important Canada sees Detroit is that Consul George was most recently their ambassador to Kuwait, and before that was a major trade negotiator who at various times headed both their government’s tariff and intellectual property divisions.

Here, he is responsible for trade and other issues involving a five-state area economically vital to Canada.

Detroit is, without any doubt, the most important border crossing between our two nations, and businesses on both sides of the border, especially Canada, have been consumed by the need for a second bridge capable of handling major freight.

Every week, well over a billion dollars in heavy automotive and other manufacturing components pass over the 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge. There is no other economically and geographically feasible way of moving this stuff.

Nor is the current bridge in a sensible location, especially for Canada. Trucks coming from Detroit have to endure 16 red lights before connecting with a major highway.

For years, any new crossing was stymied by Matty Moroun, the billionaire who owns the Ambassador Bridge.

But now both governments have agreed to build one, now known as the New International Trade Crossing. They aren’t quite home free yet. Washington has yet to agree to fund the customs plaza needed for what will be a major outpost between two nations.

And the consul told me Michigan has not yet finished buying and assembling all the parcels of land needed for the bridge’s footprint on the American side. Canada needs this bridge so much that it has agreed to foot all the upfront costs.

Michigan, in turn, will pay them back years from now out of the state’s share of the tolls. But legally, our state has to buy the land, which is in Delray, a rundown neighborhood a couple of miles south of the current bridge.

However, there are hangups. Much of the land is owned by Detroit, and some council members are insisting on a defined package of community benefits.

Clearly, bridges aren’t built in a day. Douglas George is philosophical about this, and says he thinks the new bridge could still be open for business by the target date of 2020.

His father was an attorney in Sarnia, right across the river from Port Huron, and spent something like a quarter-century on a commission striving to get a new bridge built there. If you are a diplomat, it helps to take the long view.

For George, this post is almost a homecoming. Growing up, he came to Detroit every chance he got to see concerts.

The city’s decline saddened him, but he told me yesterday he was happily amazed by how fast things seemed to be turning around.

He hopes that before long, a new generation of Canadian kids will be streaming in to the revitalized city, some of them over a new bridge.

Originally Posted by: Michigan Radio