DRIC bridge timetable not impacted by girder controversy

The Windsor Star

By Dave Battagello

A potential one-year delay to the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway project as more than 300 installed girders are replaced will not hinder construction of the new Detroit River bridge, an official with the Canadian government said Friday.

“Any delays in the parkway project as a result of the girder issue will not impact the bridge and inspection plaza components of the DRIC project,” said Mark Butler, a spokesman for Transport Canada, which is overseeing the crossing.

“Construction of the bridge, interchange and ports of entry by the concessionaire is expected to begin in 2016 with the bridge coming into service in 2020.”

The Canadian government is responsible for managing construction of the planned $1-billion Detroit River International Crossing bridge that will link the downriver industrial areas of Brighton Beach in west Windsor and Delray in Michigan. But the feds have also agreed to cover half of the costs for the parkway.

The girders are being removed after it was learned they were manufactured by a Spanish subcontractor which was not properly certified during production. Further inspection showed the girders had a number of problems that threatened their safety and durability.

The parkway was initially to be completed for traffic at the end of 2014, but that date has been pushed back a year.

“The current situation will not impact Canada’s funding arrangement with Ontario,” Butler said.

Since securing the U.S. presidential permit in April – regarded as the last major hurdle for the DRIC bridge project – Transport Canada has been “working with our U.S. federal and state partners with a focus on the Michigan port of entry,” he said. “That includes further design work and discussions on property acquisition.”

Transport Canada has also been working closely with other federal agencies such as the Canada Border Services Agency on the design of the Canadian plaza, Butler said.

Among preparation work which has already been completed on the Windsor side is relocation of species and at-risk plants off of the plaza site which is to be located in Brighton Beach next to Ojibway Parkway. Federal officials have also conducted bird and plant surveys, he said.

“International projects of this magnitude and complexity require a great deal of planning and due diligence work on both sides of the border,” Butler said. “We are working to move the project forward as soon as possible.”

High-ranking officials for the parkway project were scrambling last week on a new construction timetable, revised budgets and attempting to figure out what will happen to the vast amount of concrete and steel that will be trashed due to the faulty girders.

A spokesman for the contractor said there was nothing to report on Friday.

Originally posted in The Windsor Star