The Windsor-Detroit gateway has been recognized as one of the busiest border crossings in North America. It is currently served by four existing crossings: the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge owned by Detroit businessman Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel and the privately-owned Detroit-Windsor Tuck Ferry. In 2000, a cross border traffic survey study was conducted to collect origin-destination patterns. The survey information supported the development of baseline information for ultimately the creation of the Canada-US-Ontario-Michigan Border Transportation Partnership. Between 2001 and 2003, this partnership conducted the Planning Need and Feasibility Study (PN/F) to identify a long-term strategy to meet the needs of the transportation network serving the border between Southeastern Michigan and Southwester Ontario. In 2004, the PN/F Study was published and the bi-national partnership launched the Detroit River International Crossing study in Canada and the United States. In 2008, following four years of intensive study, this partnership concluded its coordinated environmental study, identifying the bridge and plaza locations on both sides of the border. In 2009, both the Canadian and U.S. portions of the bridge were approved by their respective administrations..
The newly named Gordie Howe International Bridge, in honor of the former Canadian hockey player, is a planned bridge and border crossing to be built across the Detroit River. The new six-lane bridge 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 Michigan and Ontario. More specifically, it will connect Detroit and Windsor (Canada) by linking Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 in Detroit with the new Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway connection to Highway 401 in Ontario. Unlike the current Ambassador Bridge, which connects to city streets on the Canadian side, this crossing will provide uninterrupted traffic flow. Officials predict that once completed, this bridge will provide additional capacity for increased trade and to encourage investment between Canada and the United States, creating thousands of jobs and opportunities on both sides of the border.
Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has voiced the most opposition over the bridge’s construction. Critics suggest that this is due to the prospect of lost profits from his duty-free gasoline sales, which are exempt from roughly 60 cents per gallon in taxes, even though consumers pay just a few cents less at the pump. Moroun has sued both the governments of Michigan and Canada to stop construction, as well as release a proposal to build a second span of the Ambassador Bridge (which he would own) instead. In 2012, Mouron invested more than $30 million promoting a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required approval of both the voters of Detroit and the voters of Michigan in statewide elections to build the bridge. On Novermber 6th, more than 60% of voters rejected Moroun’s proposal, paving the way for the bridge’s construction.
In late July of this year (2015), the bidding process for the bridge’s construction opened. On Wednesday, August 6th, sessions held in
Windsor drew more than 200 construction, engineering and supplier firms who hoped to build the Canadian half of the span. Meetings on August 7th drew many more to learn about opportunities to build the U.S. half of the bridge. Project spokesman, Mark Butler, reported more than 400 companies registered for the event. Over the next few years, the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority, a Canadian entity formed to oversee the project, will hire a team to design and build the bridge. Said team will be hiring multiple subcontractors for various aspects of the work. This lead team will also be responsible for toll collection, staffing and maintenance for 30 years. The expected cost of the bridge is over $2 billion, and the current schedule calls for its opening to traffic in 2020.