Local companies interested in being a part of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge project will have the chance to submit their qualifications within the next few days, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced in Windsor Thursday. 

More than 280 companies interested in supplying, building, providing maintenance to and operating the new bridge attended the session. 

"Local jobs will go into figuring out what design it's going to be, but at the end of the day it's going to be a triple-P [Public–Private Partnership]," said Raitt. "From our point of view in Ottawa, the importance is the triple-P — that we're going to have some private interest in it, to ensure that we're getting the best value for the dollar and making sure we stay on schedule." 

Raitt was the keynote speaker at a bridge information session organized by the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corp. She spoke about how the new bridge will strengthen trade between Canada and the U.S. and how Windsor-Essex will benefit from the construction and eventual operation of the crossing. 

"You've got to think about what else comes with the bridge, which is a lifting of the economic prosperity of the region," Raitt said.

Raitt said the government believes the bridge will help increase trade and will generate jobs in Canada. 

The federal government is paying for 95 per cent of the bridge, which is expected to cost $2.1 billion. It also agreed to pay an estimated $250 million to build the U.S. customs plaza. 

Earlier this year, Raitt said Canada will recoup the cost through bridge tolls. The U.S. will pay for workers, operations and maintenance of the plaza in Detroit.

"With the bridge itself in the short term, there's going to be thousands of jobs with respect with the construction," said Raitt, noting that after the bridge is built, there will be ongoing work related to its operation and maintenance.

Representatives of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) were also at the information session, to talk about what to expect from the project in the next few months. 

"We are pleased to be part of today's information session to help local businesses prepare themselves for what is the largest infrastructure project on the Canada-U.S. border," said Michael Cautillo, president and CEO of the WDBA. 

With a report from the CBC's Amy Dodge