Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder pose with construction apprenticeship students in Windsor, Ont. Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. The federal government says the Gordie Howe Bridge, a multibillion-dollar construction project to build a link between Detroit and Windsor, is officially underway. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Troy Shantz

Construction on Gordie Howe International Bridge officially underway

Trudeau says key link between Canada and the United States is officially underway

Construction on a multibillion-dollar bridge touted as a key link between Canada and the United States is officially underway, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Flanked by dignitaries from both sides of the border, the prime minister said the Gordie Howe International Bridge, currently slated to cost $5.7 billion, will be built over the next six years and operational by late 2024. He made the announcement at the beginning of a jam-packed day in Windsor, Ont.

Trudeau said the 2.5-kilometre bridge spanning the Detroit River will provide a critical conduit for commerce between the two countries, an issue he said has taken on increased relevance since the successful resolution of contentious free trade negotiations earlier in the week.

“I’m confident that integrated, two-way trade between Windsor and Detroit will only increase from here, which is a great thing for local communities and the national economy,” Trudeau said. “Shorter travel times, more efficient supply chains and better access to the U.S. market. The Gordie Howe International Bridge has been a long time coming.”

Trudeau said the bridge was always a priority project, but has taken on added significance since Canada joined the U.S. and Mexico in signing an agreement-in-principle on a free trade deal. The pact, dubbed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, has yet to be formally ratified.

RELATED: Canadians voted for a carbon tax, Trudeau says as provincial blowback grows

The road to Friday’s announcement has been strewn with political potholes that proponents have had to navigate at the state and federal levels.

The bridge has also survived multiple legal challenges from the private owner of the nearby Ambassador Bridge, who publicly appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump this year to revoke a presidential permit Barack Obama granted to greenlight construction.

Funding for the pricey project was also a hot-button issue until the previous Conservative government agreed to have Canada finance all aspects of the project. The move essentially saw the government do an end-run around state and congressional lawmakers south of the border who were holding up construction.

Trudeau said Friday he has spoken with Michigan’s outgoing governor, Rick Snyder, about “accelerating the timelines” for the Gordie Howe bridge.

“That’s very much how we’re focused on getting this done as quickly as we can for the people of Detroit, of Windsor and of both of our countries,” he said.

On Friday, Snyder was on hand to offer a public benediction for the project.

“This is a friendship of many, many years, and what better representation than the Gordie Howe International Bridge,” he said. ”Gordie Howe…set the benchmark for the hockey world. This bridge will set that benchmark for the Canadian-American relationship and for the rest of the world.”

Trudeau said the construction project will create an estimated 2,500 jobs and will lead to more sustained employment growth once completed.

He also touted the long-term trade benefits, saying a quarter of all trade passes through the Windsor-Detroit corridor as 7,000 commercial vehicles travel through the area daily.

The six-lane, cable-stayed bridge is expected to have a lifespan of 125 years.

Federal officials have said the business plan for the Gordie Howe bridge is based on having a second one nearby, and plans for such a project are already in the works.

Ottawa gave its blessing to a plan to replace the nearly 90-year-old Ambassador Bridge, located just down the river from where Trudeau spoke on Friday.

But the Liberals have placed strict conditions on the Ambassador’s successor, including requirements that the existing bridge be demolished. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge, the American Moroun family, have publicly stated that it could complete construction on the replacement before 2024.

Later on Friday, Trudeau met with union leaders to talk about the new trade deal. Gathered in a boardroom at a downtown hotel, he thanked them for their support through the difficult months of negotiations on the USMCA pact.

A short time later, standing amongst a group of several hundred of the workers on break at a local Chrysler assembly plant, Trudeau touted the new deal, saying that workers and their families always need to be at the centre of the agreement.

Trudeau also made a brief stop at a food bank to hand out turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artists adding finishing touches to new downtown Nanaimo murals

Three outdoor art works commissioned by Hub City Walls festival to be completed by Saturday

Nanaimo RCMP seek witnesses after assault leaves man with broken facial bones

Incident occurred 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, near Superstore, say police

Scouting report promising for Nanaimo Clippers with training camp around the corner

BCHL scouts Island Division champs as league anticipates 2020-21 season

Two motorcycles crash on Nanaimo’s Terminal Avenue, one rider injured

Collision happened at 9 a.m. Thursday near Cypress Street intersection

Sport performance centre’s physically distanced fitness program fuels food bank

Prime Sport Performance and Therapy presents $3,000 to Loaves and Fishes

STANDING TALL: Forestry workers meet the challenges, remain hopeful

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Beefs & Bouquets, Aug. 12

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

Parkinson SuperWalk goes virtual throughout B.C. due to COVID-19

People encouraged to walk around their neighbourhood, along community trails, through parks, forests

Missed rent payments ‘cause of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Most Read