Status Report on Transformational and Major Crown Projects

Project name

The Gordie Howe International Bridge (formerly known as the Detroit River International Crossing)


The project involves the development of a new crossing over the Detroit River between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge (GHIB) in Canada consists of four major infrastructure components: the bridge, a Canadian port of entry (POE), a U.S. POE, and a connection to Interstate 75 in Michigan. Canadian, Michigan and U.S. governments are directly involved. The Canada-Michigan relationship is governed by a Crossing Agreement signed in 2013. Transport Canada is the lead department for the Government of Canada but will transfer procurement and project oversight responsibilities to a newly established Crown corporation, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. The GHIB is expected to be delivered through a public-private partnership (P3) arrangement.

The Windsor-Detroit corridor is Canada’s most important trade conduit with the United States. In 2014, approximately 2.5 million trucks carrying over $100 billion in trade used this corridor. The value of this trade exceeds the value of Canada’s trade with any other country. That represents 30% of Canada-U.S. trade carried by truck. More than 99% of trucks in the corridor use the Ambassador Bridge. The Ambassador Bridge is over 80 years old with two lanes in each direction, and it will be difficult for this bridge to handle forecast traffic demand.

Project outcomes

The Project is designed to achieve the following substantive objectives:

  • Provide new border crossing capacity to meet increased long-term international trade and travel demand;
  • Improve system connectivity to enhance the continuous flow of people and goods;
  • Improve operations and processing capabilities at the border; and
  • Provide alternative and secure crossing options (i.e., network redundancy) to mitigate risks of any disruptions or blockages of crossing facilities in the region.

The investment in new border infrastructure will result in a number of positive economic impacts. Studies concluded that the direct and indirect (e.g., materials, equipment, services) impacts of the entire border infrastructure project will lead to the creation of approximately 23,000 jobs, including approximately 13,000 direct and 10,000 indirect employment opportunities. This is particularly noteworthy in that Statistics Canada has reported that the Windsor-Essex region has maintained one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada. Ancillary benefits of these jobs are expected to result in increases in consumer spending as personal income and company profits improve in the region.

Additionally, the project will provide significant opportunities for local businesses to participate in construction-related aspects of the project's implementation.

This project will not only improve the efficiency of the border crossing in the region, but will also provide direct highway connections, thereby reducing costs associated with shipping, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants resulting from idling vehicles. The project will provide redundancy and additional capacity for the next several decades. It will further support national security and public safety priorities in Canada and the United States and enhance initiatives in the Border Action Plan announced by the Prime Minister and the U.S. President in December 2011.

Given the significant interdependency of the Canadian and American economies, industry groups that rely on the Windsor-Detroit corridor have been unanimous in calling for a new bridge to ensure that traffic at the border flows efficiently and that the international supply chain remains strong.

Border inspection agencies in both countries are working with project proponents to ensure that the proposed border processing facilities meet future trade and travel demand and security requirements at the border crossing. The POEs are being developed in consultation with the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Branch, to provide sufficient areas for primary inspection-lane booths and on-site secondary inspection of people and goods. The designs will allow for dedicated NEXUS and Free and Secure Trade lanes and will provide for a substantial improvement of border processing capabilities, including areas for permanent gamma ray inspection equipment.

With almost $2 billion (Canadian dollars) daily in cross-border trade with the United States, keeping the trade system open and flowing efficiently is critical to ensuring both countries’ economic prosperity. It is equally critical to protect the border against potential threats to our health, security and economy. Redundant infrastructure will help keep the border open in case of incidents at other crossings.

Sponsoring department

Transport Canada

Contracting authority

Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority

Participating departments

Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada

Prime contractor

181 Bay Street, Suite 1100, Toronto, ON  M5J 2V1
Direct telephone: 416-643-8382, Fax: 416-601-6690

Major subcontractors

Investment Grade Traffic and Revenue Forecast
CDM Smith (formally Wilbur Smith Associates)
9500 Arboretum, Suite 360, Austin, TX U.S.A. 78759
Bridge Technical Advisor
625 Cochrane Drive, Suite 500, Markham, ON  L3R 9R9
Geotechnical and Foundation Investigations 
Golder Associates Ltd.
309 Exeter Road, Unit #1, London, ON N6L 1C1

Project phase

The project is currently in the implementation phase with Transport Canada acquiring land in Windsor and preparing to relocate utilities. Land acquisition and utility relocation in Detroit will commence in 2015. It is expected that the public-private partnership procurement process will launch in 2015.

Major milestones
  • U.S. Record of Decision issued; Ontario and Canadian authorities determined that, with the implementation of mitigation measures, the project is not likely to cause significant environmental effects. Achieved: December 2009.
  • Commencement of construction to build the Ontario Access Road. Achieved: August 2011.
  • Crossing Agreement concluded by Canada and Michigan. Achieved: June 2012
  • Establishment of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. Achieved: October 2012.
  • Presidential permit for construction issued. Achieved: April 2013.
  • U.S. Coast Guard permit for bridge construction issued. May 2013.
  • Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority operational. Achieved: August 2014.
Progress report and explanation of variances
  • Approval and necessary authorities were provided in December 2006 to continue advancing the development of a new Detroit River crossing for the Windsor-Detroit Corridor.
  • The March 2007 federal budget supported the development of a new Detroit River Crossing for the Windsor-Detroit Corridor and provided $10 million over three years for this purpose.
  • The Gordie Howe International Bridge project has been identified as a Major Crown Project as the total value is beyond the $100 million threshold. The entire project cost for Canada was estimated at $2.01 billion. Preliminary project approval to provide authorization to expend resources to fully define the Gordie Howe International Bridge Project was sought and granted in December 2007.
  • In 2008, Transport Canada received approval to enter into negotiations to acquire properties in Windsor, Ontario, for the Canadian half of the new international bridge and its Canadian customs plaza.
  • In 2009, Transport Canada sought approval for expenditure authority for Phase I of land acquisition.
  • Budget 2010 provided $10 million to cover expenses related to moving the project from the planning to implementation phase.
  • In 2012, Transport Canada sought approval of amended preliminary project approval and expenditure authority for Phase II of land acquisition.
  • Budget 2013 provided $25 million for Transport Canada project team funding and pre-procurement activities.
  • Budget 2014 announced an additional $470 million for the GHIB project for procurement and project delivery activities.
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