History of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) / New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is the largest and most ambitious bi-national border infrastructure project along the Canada-United States border.

It will provide for the safe, efficient and secure movement of people and goods across the Canada-U.S. border in the Detroit River area to support the economies of Ontario, Michigan, Canada and the United States.

The new six-lane bridge across the Detroit River between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan is a component of a new end-to-end transportation system that also includes associated border inspection plazas and connections to the freeway systems in Ontario and Michigan. This project will provide an essential additional crossing option at one of the busiest Canada-U.S. commercial border crossings.

Once complete, the new bridge will provide additional capacity to increase trade and to encourage investment between Canada and the United States and help to create thousands of jobs and opportunities on both sides of the border. The new bridge will also provide, system connectivity, improved border processing and capacity.

The Canada-Michigan Crossing Agreement, signed in June 2012 by Canada and Michigan, provided a framework for the construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the new publicly-owned bridge. The Crossing Agreement called for the establishment of both a crossing authority, known as the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), to deliver, procure and fund the project through a public-private partnership (P3), and an International Authority to oversee the project procurement and the compliance with the Crossing Agreement.

On May 14, 2015, former Prime Minister, along with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, announced that the new publicly-owned bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan will be named the Gordie Howe International Bridge.  Several members of the Howe family attended the naming ceremony including Gordie Howe’s sons Marty and Murray.

Howe was born in Floral, Saskatchewan and spent the majority of his playing career with the Detroit Red Wings.  Known simply as “Mr. Hockey”, Howe is internationally recognized as one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

During his 32 seasons of professional hockey spanning six decades, Howe amassed more records than any athlete in history. These include benchmarks of 1,071 goals, 2,589 points, 28 all-star appearances, seven MVPs, and registering an amazing 20 consecutive seasons in the top five in NHL scoring.

He has been awarded six Hart Trophies as the National Hockey League’s (NHL) most valuable player; six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer; and has won the Stanley Cup four times with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.  He was also the inaugural recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.  

Howe was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1971 in recognition of his outstanding achievement in sports and his service to Canadians.  In 2000, Howe was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in celebration of his excellence in sports and inspiration to the next generation.

Today, he continues to serve as a role model and ambassador to generations of fans and players on both sides of the border. As a proud Canadian who was equally proud to play for the Detroit Red Wings, Howe built extraordinary goodwill between Canada and the United States.

The new bridge bearing his name will continue this proud legacy by accelerating the flow of people, merchandise and services between our great nations for years to come.  

The WDBA is honoured to deliver the Gordie Howe International Bridge which will not only foster the close relationship between Canada and the United States but also reflect “Mr. Hockey’s” qualities of strength, endurance and excellence.

How it all started

The Windsor-Detroit gateway has been recognized as one of the busiest border crossings in North America. The gateway is served by four existing crossings: the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge; the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel (owned jointly by the cities of Windsor and Detroit; the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel (owned by Borealis Infrastructure and Canadian Pacific Railway; and the privately-owned Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry.

In response to industry and border stakeholder concerns that the existing crossings would not support the anticipated increase in cross border traffic, a cross border traffic survey study to collect origin-destination patterns of cross-border trips was carried out in 2000 by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Transport Canada , the Michigan Department of Transportation and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

This survey information supported the development of baseline information for the subsequent Planning Need and Feasibility (PN/F) Study and ultimately, the creation of the Canada-U.S.-Ontario-Michigan Border Transportation Partnership.

Between 2001 and 2003 the partnership conducted the PN/F Study to identify a long-term strategy to meet the needs of the transportation network serving the border between Southeastern Michigan and Southwestern Ontario. The study included significant consultation on both sides of the border.

In 2004, the PN/F Study was published and the bi-national partnership formally launched the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study in Canada and the United States.

The Environmental Study process

A major infrastructure initiative such as a new border transportation system requires that environmental studies be carried out to:

  • identify potential adverse environmental effects
  • propose measures to mitigate adverse environmental effects
  • predict whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, after mitigation measures are implemented
  • include a follow-up program to verify the accuracy of the environmental study and the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.

While all environmental studies are both thorough and systematic, the DRIC study required an additional amount of effort to ensure that it was coordinated to meet the legislated requirements from governments on both sides of the border.

The bi-national partnership developed a coordinated process that enabled the joint selection of a recommended river crossing location and plaza locations that met the requirements of the OEAA (Ontario Environmental Assessment Act) and the CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act) in Canada as well as NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) in the U.S., in an effective and efficient manner.

These separate pieces of legislation all require that the environmental studies be thorough, open, transparent and fully accessible to the public for scrutiny and evaluation. The study team worked with the public, communities, and interested groups on both sides of the border to develop a solution that best meets future transportation needs, while minimizing community impacts. A key principle of this process is that all affected and interested parties are given the opportunity to participate and offer input throughout the study and that all stakeholders, including local communities, are fully aware of the decisions made and the methodology used to make those decisions. As a result, the study team held over 300 consultation meetings seeking community and stakeholder input at key points during the study, making the coordinated environmental study for this project the most extensive in Ontario and Michigan history.

Following four years of intensive study, in 2008, the partnership concluded its coordinated environmental study identifying the bridge and plaza locations on both sides of the border, the Ontario access road (now known as the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway), and the U.S. interchange connection as the technically and environmentally preferred alternative (TEPA).

In 2009, the partnership received approvals under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act . On the U.S. side, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Record of Decision approving the U.S. portion of the new Detroit-Windsor border crossing system over the Detroit River.

Although the environmental study is now complete, the WDBA is required to work with provincial, state and federal authorities on both sides of the border to ensure that all of the commitments to environmental mitigation and monitoring are implemented effectively. Detailed environmental management plans for the design and construction of the project will incorporate the environmental commitments outlined in the environmental study. This work includes the development of follow-up and monitoring programs, as well as detailed environmental management plans.

For more information on the DRIC study, please visit www.partnershipborderstudy.com.