Michigan, Canada break ground on Gordie Howe bridge

U.S. and Canadian officials touted the friendship between the two countries while acknowledging the economic benefits a new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, will bring.

A groundbreaking for the advance construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge was held Tuesday in southwest Detroit.

The six-lane, cable-stayed Canadian-financed span over the Detroit River is expected to provide direct connections to existing highway networks in Windsor and Detroit. Construction could start in earnest by early October. The bridge is scheduled to open in 2020.

"Make no mistake, we are starting to build this bridge and it's going to be built and the people of the United States and Canada will be using it very soon," Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority Chair Dwight Duncan said at Tuesday's ceremony.

The Windsor-Detroit trade corridor is the busiest commercial land crossing on the border between the U.S. and Canada, handling more than 30 percent of trade hauled by trucks.

"If you look at the hard work being done and the progress being shown, this bridge is going to get built," Gov. Rick Snyder said.

 "It will create immediate jobs for workers on  both sides but it will also help us grow our economy," Canada Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. Amarjeet Sohi said.

"The Gordie Howe International Bridge will play a vital role in supporting and growing the local economies on both sides of the border and will create opportunities for residents and businesses alike," said Amarjeet Sohi, Canadian minister of Infrastructure and Communities. "This project is also an important symbol of our deep friendship and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States."

Currently, the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel are the only commuter crossings between the two cities.

Snyder called the Gordie Howe bridge an "economic engine" that will provide good-paying jobs. He also said a second span would provide economic security in the event of an Ambassador Bridge closing.

The financial deal will be finalized in September. In Canada, construction has already started despite concerns about tariffs and current disagreements between the leaders of the two countries. President Trump's ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft, was on site for the groundbreaking.

"Some may find it paradoxical that a Trump ambassador is here to break ground for a bridge rather than say - maybe a wall - but the world is full of contradictions," Craft said.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. which operates the Ambassador Bridge has been unsuccessful in suing to stop the future construction of the new bridge.

The company has been seeking permits to build a six-lane replacement span for the Ambassador Bridge. That span would be about two miles upriver of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

The Gordie Howe bridge is named after the late hockey legend, who was born in Canada and grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Most of his 26 years in the NHL were with the Detroit Red Wings. He died in 2016.

Part of the construction plan is to keep the community informed of the project. An open house is set for Thursday, July 26th at Historic Fort Wayne (6325 W Jefferson) from 3 pm to 7pm. There are two different presentation times planned during the open house: 3:30 pm and 5:45 pm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.