Windsor politicians push for more community benefits from Ambassador, Gordie Howe bridges

Amid reports of possible delays with the Gordie Howe Bridge Project, Windsor West New Democrat Brian Masse is pushing the federal government to provide any cost penalties levied upon the contractor to go back into the community.

The $5.7 billion public-private partnership with Bridging North America is currently under construction on Windsor’s west end, with a projected timeline for completion of November 2024.

Masse says the contractor is contractually obligated to hit that target. Failing that, the consortium of companies will be on the hook for late penalties.

Masse argues the longer the project takes, the more harm will be caused to the hosting community of Sandwich Town.

“Should the Gordie Howe Bridge not make the mandated timeframes that the contract that is signed had been there, that we want to continue these positive relationships that has been expressed right here, but the expectation is the resources would come to this community and not pad the wallets in Ottawa,” says Masse.

The Gordie Howe Bridge has already delivered millions of dollars in community benefits as part of its project requirements.

Residents and business owners in the west end believe the feds could turn a potential negative into a positive by diverting possible late penalties into a legacy fund.

“We’re going to be here for 100 years. If the bridge is going to be here for 100 years, we should have some compensation for that over the next 100 years,” says local business owner, Mary Ann Cuderman.

Masse sent a letter to the federal government, including the prime minister, deputy prime minister and ministers of transport and public safety, urging them not to extend the 2017 Order in Council permit issued to the Ambassador Bridge Company to build a replacement span across the Detroit river.

“They have not done one iota for this community since they’ve been here,” says Cuderman.

The permit expires at the end of August and Masse says most of the dozens of conditions of that permit have gone unmet. Masse is asking “that you make amends to the community by investigating the expropriation and clean-up of speculative properties” in west Windsor.

“That is an abject failure, and it has a lot of repercussions to our community.”

“We need to look at turning the corner on improving this area,” says another business owner, Mike Cardinal. “I think the bridge needs to be held accountable.”

In a statement to CTV News, the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority, which is overseeing the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, wouldn’t confirm any delays.

“We continue to work toward opening the bridge to traffic by the contracted date of the end of 2024,” the statement reads. “With the COVID-19 pandemic and related safety precautions now at a steady state, we are actively assessing the potential impacts of the pandemic on the project schedule.”

The Ambassador Bridge Company did not respond to a request for comment.

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