As construction begins this fall on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, Michigan and Canadian officials say they’ll continue to engage affect residents on both sides of the border.
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority held community meetings in both cities this week. Advance site preparation is already underway on both the U.S. and Canadian sides.
After spending years in limbo amidst uncertainty over the project, people still living in the new bridge’s footprint are now turning their attention to the practical realities of living with a years-long, multi-billion dollar international infrastructure project.
Bridge Authority spokesman Mark Butler says those concerns include short- and long-term impacts, ranging from access to project-related jobs to general quality of life.
“They want to know what happens with trucks coming in their neighborhood. Particulate matter being kicked up, and that sort of stuff. Construction zones,” Butler said. “Those sort of general questions.”
Butler says the WDBA is trying to provide residents with as much detailed information as possible, but some final details won’t be available until the Authority signs a final contract with the consortium of private firms chosen to build, operate and maintain the new bridge.
The WDBA announced this month it had chosen Bridging North America as its “preferred proponent” for the project. Butler says the contract should be finalized in late September, and is expected to contain a community benefits component.
Kevin Casillas is president Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition. That group advocates for residents in Detroit’s Delray community, which will host the American side of the bridge.
Casillas says that after studying some of Bridging North America’s track record on prior infrastructure projects in Canada and elsewhere, the coalition is “optimistic” the group will be attentive to community concerns.
“We are looking forward to the same expectation and standard to listen to the community, to meet the unique needs that this side of the river has with this project,” Casillas said.
Casillas says the coalition will continue tracking environmental, health, and quality of life impacts in Delray and surrounding areas as the project proceeds. It will also continue to advocate for residents who have been or are being displaced by the project.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and although it’s difficult for all of us in the community in terms of the change that it brings, we will continue to advocate for those most affected by this project -- those that remain, and those that have been affected,” Cassillas said.