A new bridge that will span Canada’s busiest border crossing with the United States is expected to cost $5.7-billion, take six years to build and will rely on steady tolls to pay back the federal investment needed to make it happen.
The price tag for the Gordie Howe International Bridge, announced Friday, includes $3.8-billion for its design and construction, as well as $1.9-billion more to operate and maintain the span and its ports of entry on both sides of the border for 30 years.
The cost of the bridge has steadily increased since the previous Conservative government found a way to bypass American lawmakers and the funding stalemate that had threatened to thwart the long-discussed project.
Officials overseeing work on the bridge named after the late Hockey Hall of Famer – who spent much of his career as a member of the Detroit Red Wings – say the contract unveiled Friday with a consortium of private construction firms largely sets the final price.
But there are still risks that could drive up the cost, including any labour disruptions and additional environmental work.
The consortium will have to swallow any increases in labour or materials costs, and federal officials could decide to withhold payments if construction timelines fall behind schedule.
The major risk for the bridge authority is that the project doesn’t earn enough from user tolls to cover the federal investment. The bridge authority says the cost would have been more than $6.2-billion if the Canadian government had decided not to partner with a private-sector consortium and to foot the entire bill itself.
Construction of the six-lane, 2.5-kilometre cable-stayed bridge will provide a second span connecting Windsor, Ont., and Detroit – but it won’t be open to traffic until the end of 2024.
Once it opens, it’s slated to have a lifespan of 125 years.
About one-quarter of all goods traded annually between Canada and the United States passes through the Detroit-Windsor corridor.