A new bridge between Windsor and Detroit will mean new jobs in the region and not just in the short term as the bridge is built, says one border expert.
"You build bridges to create mobility and accessibility," said Bill Anderson, Ontario Research Chair in Cross-Border Transportation Policy at the University of Windsor.
"There will be improved accessibility in the region and that should lead to some economic development," Anderson said. "The combination of the [Herb Gray Parkway] and new bridge will make this region more attractive to certain industries that are intense border users."
Anderson said the two projects, totalling nearly $4 billion, will attract "a whole range of logistics and warehousing" companies.
"There will be many locations in Windsor that will effectively be on the border," Anderson said.
Anderson said a business located on Manning Road in Tecumseh, for example, could take as long as 30 minutes to get to the Ambassador Bridge.
When the new parkway and six-lane bridge is finished, that time could be trimmed in more than half, Anderson said.
Until the bridge is finished, Anderson said construction should keep thousands of people employed.
The parkway, he said, currently accounts for 2,300 workers who "wouldn't be working otherwise," Anderson said. However, only half those employees are from Windsor.
Anderson said he's part of a team that consults confidentially with parkway officials and employers in effort to determine the economic impact of the parkway.
"They've been very good about that," Anderson said of employers.
Anderson said there are approximately 1,100 people employed by the parkway who are not from Windsor. They work at factories that produce materials that go into construction or do design work that is done off-site.
Anderson said job creation at the project is calculated using person years, not jobs.
He doubts the original estimate of 12,000 person years, which is the equivalent of 3,000 people working for four years, will ever be reached.
"I don't know if we'll ever get to that number," he said. "Coming in lower than what you expect from the models is not surprising."
He said work is done more efficiently than the models account for.
"But it's still a lot of employment," he said.
Jim Lyons, the director of the Heavy Construction Association of Windsor, last week refused to speculate on how many jobs would be created by construction of the new bridge.
Lyons would only say hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of man hours of work will be created.
Robert Petroni, the business manager for the Labourers' International Union of North America, which represents skilled trades workers, would only say the bridge project will keep the 1,000 members of Local 625 employed.
Those 1,000 are already working on the Herb Gray Parkway, Petroni said.
Now that the presidential permit was issued Friday, the bridge is expected to be finished by 2020.
Anderson called it a conservative completion date. But that's for a good reason.
It gives businesses that are considering moving or opening here time to plan.