Gordie Howe Bridge is on schedule

Bridge chairman vows project will finish on time

 John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press10:55 p.m. EST January 16, 2016

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Photo: McMillan LLP) 

The new chairman of the effort planning the Gordie Howe International Bridge has a very Gordie Howe-like warning for any remaining naysayers about the project.

“We’re going to get the new new Gordie Howe Bridge done,” Dwight Duncan, who this month became interim chairman of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, told the Free Press last week. “And like Gordie Howe, I’m going to have my elbows up in the corners and if anybody gets in the way we’ll do what Gordie did to the Maple Leafs over the years.”

Duncan, a longtime elected official and civic leader in Windsor and Ontario, took over his post as interim chairman of the WDBA on Jan. 1, replacing the outgoing Mark McQueen as a result of Canada’s recent change of government. The authority will oversee the construction of the new span linking Windsor and Detroit, including the choice of a team of engineers and contractors to design, build, and operate the bridge.

Duncan was named to his new post as of Jan. 1 following the victory last year of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party in Canada’s national election. Trudeau replaced outgoing Conservative leader Stephen Harper, whose government had initiated the bridge project in a partnership with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Harper’s government also created the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.

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Duncan’s first duty as the new chairman was to assure the public that Trudeau’s administration is fully committed to carrying on the bridge project.

“Oh, yes, it’s one of their top economic projects,” Duncan said last week in an interview with the Free Press. “(Infrastructure) Minister (Amarjeet) Sohi has already toured the site. The prime minister has been well briefed. We are certainly moving forward, and we are moving forward in as fast and as prudent a fashion as we can.”

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Duncan dismissed notions that the bridge is facing a soaring price tag or significant delays. His predecessor as WDBA chairman, Mark McQueen, has raised such fears recently in his public comments, saying that the falling Canadian dollar, now worth about 25% less against the U.S. dollar than three years ago, will double the price of the bridge.

And McQueen has also sparked controversy by saying that the project is unlikely to meet its late 2020 completion date since the authority has not yet shortlisted the three teams vying to win the contract to build the bridge. Initially the WDBA has said it would release the names of the three finalists by the end of 2015, but now it appears it will happen in early 2016.

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Crews work on preparing the site for construction of the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge in Windsor, Ontario on Wed., Nov. 25, 2015. (Photo: Romain Blanquart Detroit Free Press)

“There’s nothing I lose sleep over,” Duncan told the Free Press. “These are large complicated  projects. I’ve been involved in many large infrastructure projects over many years, including nuclear power plants, landfills, the whole shooting match. There’s always surprises and things that you don’t anticipate but built into your timelines you hopefully accommodate for some of that.”

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A native of Windsor, Duncan served six years on the Windsor City Council and then represented the area for 18 years in the Ontario Provincial Parliament. He served in leadership positions in the provincial parliament including minister of both energy and finance. He has held a number of civic positions as well. As a youth, he had a paper route in Windsor delivering the Detroit Free Press.

Duncan said he has been working on planning a new border crossing between Windsor and Detroit since the mid-1980s. He helped plan the creation of the new Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, the recently completed highway that will link the new Gordie Howe Bridge to Canada’s 401 expressway.

With that behind him, Duncan said he’s confident the Gordie Howe Bridge will be worth all the effort.

“I’m quite confident that the kind of investment we’re making is well justified and over time will prove itself to be beneficial to both Canada and the United States,” he said.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.

http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2016/01/16/windsor-detroit-bridge-duncan-trudeau/78793016/