Gordie Howe Bridge ready to put out RFP’s

Gordie Howe International Bridge bids to be sought soon

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. said in Detroit on Tuesday that  Canadian officials will issue within weeks the long-awaited request for proposals seeking a team to build the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Issuing the RFP would represent a major step forward for the bridge project. The Canadian entity overseeing the project, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, initially said in 2015 it would issue the RFP late last year. The delay in calling for bids from three teams of finalists short-listed for the process has led to speculation about delays in ultimately opening the bridge to traffic, now scheduled for late 2020.

But speaking in Detroit to the Canada-United States Business Association, Ambassador David MacNaughton said Canada’s ministry of infrastructure is expected to approve the issuance of the RFP within weeks.

“I think it’s fair to say that things are progressing extremely well, and I’m hopeful we can release the RFP very soon,” he said. “This is the biggest single infrastructure project in Canada. It is of tremendous importance to us and obviously it’s of tremendous importance in Michigan and Detroit and to the United States of America, and we will continue to press ahead to make this a reality as soon as possible.”

The delay in issuing the RFP has been attributed mainly to uncertainties over land acquisition on the Detroit side of the border, where the Michigan Department of Transportation has been working to assemble hundreds of parcels in southwest Detroit’s Delray district to make way for the bridge, its connections to I-75, and for the U.S. Customs and Border Inspection plaza that will be built. Land assembly is more complicated in the U.S. than in Canada because of restrictions in the U.S. on the government’s use of its eminent domain powers to take private land for public projects.

Issuing the RFP this fall would mean a winning team of architects, engineers and contractors will be picked possibly as late as 2018. Since design and construction is estimated to take about four years, the bridge may not open to traffic until 2021 or later unless time can be made up.

MacNaughton’s message Tuesday was clear.

“No one should ever anticipate that any of the so-called delays in the project mean that the government of Canada is not committed 100% to this project,” he told the lunch gathering at the Renaissance Center. “The government is, and we will continue to see it through to its conclusion, which I think will be of tremendous benefit to everyone here.”

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