Jobs and benefits. The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority held its annual public meeting on Nov. 23, 2018, at the Capitol Theatre. Dwight Duncan, chairman, left, and CEO Bryce Phillips are shown during the event. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
With the start of the Gordie Howe International Bridge construction underway, the focus now turns to the total number of jobs to be created and exactly what Windsor might see as part of the project’s $20-million community benefits promise.
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority helped answer questions Friday during its annual public meeting held at the Capitol Theatre.
More than 2,000 workers are expected to eventually have a direct hand working on the bridge project itself during the period of construction, scheduled to stretch into late 2024, the target date for the bridge to open to traffic.
But many more spinoff jobs will be created, ranging from providing materials for the project to additional hotel and restaurant jobs as a result of feeding and housing workers on the massive border crossing effort.
Over 300 people, largely managerial and supervisor positions in preparation for the construction, have already been hired by the project’s contractor — a global consortium of companies known as Bridging North America.
“Work has started,” said WDBA board chairman Dwight Duncan. “It’s not necessarily all visible. We have detailed drawings being done, managers being put in place. But within the next six months things will really start to progress.
“Then you have a multiplier effect. A lot of these folks are already looking for homes to rent or buy while they are here. They are staying in hotels, going out to dinner, so those places are experiencing (job growth) too.”
Those interested in working on the Howe project, whose theme “At the Ready” was unveiled Friday, can find the latest list of available jobs on WDBA’s website at www.wdbridge.com under “opportunities.”
In terms of properties still required for the Howe bridge on the Detroit side, there remains about four per cent still not in hand — primarily held by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. But there are no concerns, Duncan said.
Expropriation of those lands — called condemnation in Detroit — continues to be fought in court, but even if not successful there are “contingency plans” of building around the properties if required, he said.
“We will have the properties we need, when we need them,” Duncan said. “But in the event of circumstances we have another way of dealing with it. It’s not ideal, but we don’t have any concerns (about Moroun’s properties).
Also of concern to many in Windsor — especially those closest to the new bridge in Sandwich — are exactly what type of community benefits will be provided. Funds to improve the surrounding host community are a requirement of the major infrastructure project.
A local working group has been formed and over 250 suggestions “of what people want to see,” have so far been submitted to the bridge authority for consideration, said Heather Grondin, WDBA’s vice-president of communications.
Further consultation in the coming days will narrow the list under several categories defined by the WDBA, she said. They include community partnerships, landscaping, mitigation measures and improved community safety.
The first of those opportunities for the public to provide feedback will be on Dec. 4 when the WDBA hosts a public information session at Mackenzie Hall from 3 to 7 p.m.
“We will talk to the community to gather more feedback on priorities of where people want us to spend the funds,” Grondin said. “Bridging North America will present a final list of initiatives to WDBA and we will ultimately decide the final plans.”
Using the funds for such expenditures as purchasing the former Windsor Jail or creating a health centre in Sandwich is outside the bridge authority’s mandate.
But Grondin listed improvements that may be considered, including a bike-sharing program, connecting a multi-use trail from the new bridge to the Herb Gray Parkway trail, increased streetscaping and additional tree planting for buffering.
Attendees at the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authoritys annual public meeting on Friday at the Capitol Theatre watch a video. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
Thousands of jobs and millions in community benefits. Members of the board of directors are shown on the stage at the Capitol Theatre Friday during the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authoritys annual public meeting. Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
A rendering of the Gordie Howe International Bridge proposed between Windsor and Detroit. (Courtesy Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority)
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority now has a clearer picture of just how many people it will take to build the new multi-billion-dollar Gord Howe International Bridge — and its in the thousands.
Were expecting in the order of between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs throughout the construction period, said Bryce Phillips, CEO of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.
Officials with the WDBA are promising to focus on Windsor and Detroit workers for those 2,000 to 3,000 construction jobs associated with the building of the bridge. The WDBA says it will use Canadian and American companies wherever possible as well.
While the board has provided an updated picture of the major project, about two dozen residents from neighbourhoods directly impacted by the bridge construction were focused on what community benefit they would see.
Heather Grondin, a spokesperson for the WDBA, says the board along with the selected consortium building the bridge —Bridging North America — have committed $20-million to a Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy as part of the Community Benefits Plan.
She says the strategys priorities will reflect the consultation the WDBA has carried out dating back to 2015.
They focus very much on identifying community partnerships, having enhance aesthetics and landscaping opportunities, having enhanced construction mitigation opportunities, workforce opportunities, as well as ensuring theres an opportunity for local contractors to have an opportunity on the project, says Grondin.
The new bridge connecting Windsor and Detroit is expected to cost roughly $5.7-billion and be open to traffic by 2024.
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