Speech and presentation by Michael Cautillo, President and C.E.O. of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority to the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce 139th Annual General Meeting

Thank you Laurie for that kind introduction.

It is a pleasure to be here today to speak to you about the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, or the WDBA, and the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

While the WDBA is relatively new - becoming operational just 15 months ago - I myself am not new to the project nor new to Windsor.

In fact, I have been involved as a consultant in the planning of the new crossing between Windsor and Detroit for ten years before I was selected through a competitive process and appointed as the organization’s first President and Chief Executive Officer.

Before joining the WDBA, I worked on a number of major infrastructure projects both here in Canada and elsewhere including on major P3 projects, highway operations, railways, municipal transit, airport design and construction and toll highways.

I will admit that while I have had many opportunities in my professional career to work on significant infrastructure projects, none compare in size and scope and complexity as the new bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

Highway 407 doesn’t compare with the complexity, size and opportunities.

This project has been called “one of the most significant infrastructure projects in Canada”.  I firmly believe that.

Once completed, I believe the new bridge will bring positive change to the region.

It will create significant job growth, both during the construction period and thereafter during its operation.

Frankly, I am excited to be a part of it all.

I would like to divide my comments today into three components: how we got to this point, where we are today, and where we will be in the future.

As you can imagine, projects of the magnitude of the Gordie Howe International Bridge take many years to get to the construction phase.  

Let me start by speaking about how the project came to be.

But first – to give some perspective – let’s consider some very interesting statistics.

It’s about creating connectivity

Canada and the U.S. are the world's largest trading partners with C$782 billion in goods and services in 2013.

Canada buys more from the United States than does any other nation – including all 28 countries of the European Union.

We exchange approximately $1.4 million in goods and services every minute.

Nearly nine million U.S. jobs are supported by Canada – U.S. trade.

35 states, including Michigan, have Canada as their leading export market.

Windsor-Detroit is the busiest commercial land border crossing on the Canada-U.S. border and one of busiest in North America:

This border handles $126 billion of two-way surface trade per year.

It handles over 25% of total Canada-U.S. trade per year.

It handles 30% of total Canada-U.S. trade carried by truck which is $100 billion per year.

And it handles more than 2.5 million trucks each year.

The Windsor-Detroit gateway currently consists of four crossings: Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Windsor Truck Ferry and Canadian Pacific Railway tunnel. Those four crossings collectively represent what is arguably the busiest commercial land-border crossing between Canada and the United States and, indeed, one of the busiest in North America.

A disruption to the Windsor-Detroit gateway, whether due to the failure of critical infrastructure assets or as a result of the existing crossings reaching capacity, would have a serious detrimental effect on the economies of Canada and the United States; Ontario and Michigan; and Windsor-Essex and Detroit.

In 2000, 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. This was was carried out by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Transport Canada, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration – the organizations that would form the bi-national Border Transportation Partnership.

Between 2001 and 2003 the partnership conducted the Planning Need and Feasibility to identify a long-term strategy to meet the expected demands of the transportation network serving the border between Southeastern Michigan and Southwestern Ontario. Between 2005 and 2008, the bi-national partnership conducted the Detroit River International Crossing, or DRIC, study in Canada and the United States.

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, and the U.S. interchange connection. The environmental study was approved by Canada, Ontario and the US in 2009.

This is an important project for both sides. The DRIC study included consultations with stakeholders on both sides of the border. As a result of a coordinated, methodical and comprehensive study, the building of a new publicly-owned bridge received overwhelming support from stakeholders in both countries.

Stakeholders like the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, and 24 other Chambers of Commerce in both Canada and the United States.  

The environmental assessment process was a long but necessary one to get us to where we are today.

Now let’s look at some other key milestones which have been reached along the way.

In 2012, Canada passed the Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act. The Act facilitates implementation of the project, including the establishment of the WDBA and the International Authority.  I see Eddie Francis is here.

Also in 2012, Canada and Michigan signed the Crossing Agreement which enabled the building of the new publicly-owned crossing. Under the agreement, Canada is responsible for constructing, financing and operating the new crossing through a public-private partnership, or a P3.

In 2013, the U.S. State Department issued the Presidential Permit providing U.S. federal approval for the “construction, connection, operation, and maintenance” of the new publicly-owned bridge.

In 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a Bridge Permit. This navigational permit was the final key U.S. federal approval required for the U.S. portion of the project and approves the portion of the bridge to be constructed across waters under the jurisdiction of the United States.

In August 2014, Canada’s newest Crown corporation, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, started operations, with me being its first employee.

The WDBA’s mandate is to oversee and manage the procurement process for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the new bridge between Windsor and Detroit through a P3. The WDBA will also oversee and manage the construction and operation of the new crossing. – bridge, plus two plazas and connection to I-75.

The WDBA is governed by a board of directors and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

I should also mention the International Authority again, which is a joint Canada-Michigan governance entity established to oversee and approve key steps in the P3 procurement process for the new crossing. It is also responsible for monitoring compliance by the WDBA with the Crossing Agreement signed by Canada and Michigan.

And, of course, in May of last year, the Governments of Canada and Michigan announced that the new publicly-owned bridge will be named the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

The WDBA is now fully functional. We have located our offices on three floors at the CIBC building on Ouellette. We have become one of the region’s newest employers. We have retained over 40 people to date. We have also engaged key advisors to help with the launch of the P3 procurement process.

Work has recently begun on the site of the Canadian Port of Entry. Amico Infrastructures Inc. has been retained to complete what is known as Early Works. The contract with this local company is valued at $59 million.

Early Works includes the construction of a perimeter access road, utility relocations and the placement of significant quantities of fill to stabilize the ground to allow for the construction of the buildings on the Canadian Port of Entry.

To help convey the scope of the Early Works activities here are a few numbers:

The perimeter access road is more than 4 kilometres.

More than 850 kilometres of wick drains will be installed. That is approximately the distance from Windsor to Nashville, Tennessee.

1 million cubic metres of fill will be used. That would fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The completion of these Early Works is required to prepare the Canadian Port of Entry site for the work to be undertaken by the private-sector partner and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

I am happy to report that good progress is being made on these works. As seen in two of the images of the screen, since issuing the contract this summer, activities related to the installation of exclusion fencing, clearing and grubbing, topsoil removal and preparing the site for the installation of wick drains and fill placement for the plaza have been undertaken.

The last time I was on site, there was in excess of 60 trucks hauling fill, a number of backhoes, bulldozers, rollers and excavators.

We are in the process of relocating utilities on both sides of the border and acquiring properties on the U.S. side of the border.

We continue to work closely with our partners and stakeholders including: Transport Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Government of Ontario, the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, U.S. General Services Administration and both the Cities of Windsor and Detroit.

When you look at the number of people involved and see the complexity of the project.

In addition to Early Works, we have achieved another key priority for us this year that we are extremely proud of. We started the procurement process to identify our private-sector partner.

The procurement process has two stages.

The first stage of this process was the issuance of the Request for Qualifications which occurred on July 20, 2015.

On October 9, 2015, we received six separate bids from consortia representing companies in Canada, the United States and internationally.

Respondents will be evaluated on their qualifications to carry out the project including their experience with securing local resourcing.

Up to three respondents will then be invited to proceed to the Request for Proposals, or RFP, stage. The RFP is the second stage of the procurement process that will result in the selection of a private sector partner.

The entire procurement process is expected to last for 18 months. - Typical timeframe.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project will literally change not just the landscape of Windsor-Essex and Detroit.  

The project is made up of four components – the Canadian Port of Entry in west Windsor, the bridge over the Detroit River, a US Port of Entry in the area of Delray, Michigan and a Michigan Interchange connecting to Interstate 75 and 4 large ramps.

The new Canadian and U.S. Ports of Entry will be amongst the largest along the Canada-U.S. border.

While the bridge design has yet to be finalized, it will be amongst the top five longest bridges in North America. – technology has advanced.

The height of the main towers will be up to 250 m which rivals the height of the GM Renaissance Centre in Detroit.

The clearance between the bridge deck and the Detroit River will be 50 m which is approximately half the height of Caesars Windsor.

The bridge itself will provide:

  • Six lanes - three Canadian-bound, three US-bound
  • A clear span of 850 metres with no piers in the water
  • One approach bridge on each side of the crossing
  • A total length of approximately 2.5 kilometres.

Approximately half a million tonnes of concrete will be used to construct the bridge. This equates to 25,000 cement truck loads.  If all trucks were to be lined up end-to-end, it would equal the distance between Windsor, Ontario and Chicago, Illinois.  

Approximately 22,000 tonnes of steel will be needed for the new bridge. Important, only steel produced in Canada and the United States will used for the bridge.

Up to 5,000 tonnes of bridge cables will be used. This equates to the weight of approximately 3,500 mid-size cars.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge will be more than just a signature for both Windsor-Essex and Detroit.  

The project will create jobs during the four-year construction period and many long-term jobs will be created during the operations phase.

There will be new opportunities for businesses that will supply goods, materials and services for the project both during its construction and during its operation.  Steel, concrete, earth, grave l and done locally.

Once in-service, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will provide a safe, efficient and secure end-to-end border crossing system directly connecting Highway 401 and Interstate 75.

It will also provide new border crossing capacity to meet increased long-term travel demand; improve system connectivity to enhance the continuous flow of people and goods; improve operations and processing capabilities at the border; and provide reasonable and secure crossing options.

Additional capacity will stimulate I believe long-term economic growth for both Canada and the United States, Ontario and Michigan and for Windsor-Essex and Detroit.

The WDBA board of directors and others are 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, of endurance and of excellence.

We are working hard to deliver the project on time and to have the bridge in service as possible.

Thank you.

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