Windsor

American permit calls for protection, not demolition of Ambassador Bridge: Company

The president of the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says it may not be allowed to tear down the existing bridge after completing a replacement span even though the demolition has been ordered by the Canadian government.

Dan Stamper blames Canadian government for giving bridge company a 'bad rap'

Dan Stamper answers questions about if the Ambassador Bridge will be demolished. 0:36

The president of the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says it may not be allowed to tear down the existing bridge after completing a replacement span even though the demolition has been ordered by the Canadian government. 

"The U.S. permits say we have to keep the old bridge up. It's on historical lists. But Canada says tear it down. We're going to leave that up to the two countries to tell us what to do," said Dan Stamper in Windsor Thursday. "Our view is we want to build a new six-lane bridge. We want to do it as soon as possible and whatever the outcome is we'll do. If it means tearing we'll tear it down."

The permit from the Canadian government granting the company permission to begin construction came with several conditions, including a stipulation it must "demolish" the Ambassador Bridge no more than five years after the new bridge opens to traffic.

Stamper said that came as a "surprise" considering an American permit, which was issued more than a year ago, includes conditions from the State Historic Preservation Office that designated the bridge a historically significant site that must be preserved.

The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge is planning to build a new span after receiving a final permit from the Canadian government, but officials on both sides of the border say some conditions must still be met before construction can begin. (Detroit International Bridge Company)

He added the company has raised the issue with representatives from both governments, who must now decide how to deal with the discrepancy.

"I don't necessarily see it as a stumbling block, I just think the permits need to be consistent," he said. "It's just one of those things when you have one foot in Canada and one foot in the U.S. and they're not on the same time frame for issuing permits."

'You're going to see a lot more of us'

Stamper also said the company is planning a PR campaign in Sandwich that will see it open a storefront, host regular meetings and provide updates during the construction of a second span.

"You're going to see a lot more of us in the community, talking with the community and supplying information," said Stamper.

The presence of the company is already being felt by the community in the shadow of the bridge. Workers in bright orange vests began demolishing derelict homes along Indian Road this week, ending a decade-long stalemate with the City of Windsor.

Crews demolish a home on Indian Road as the Ambassador Bridge begins work to build a second span. (Jason Viau/CBC News)

The work began almost immediately after the city issued demolition permits to comply with the federal cabinet order approving the construction of a new, six-lane replacement span for the Ambassador Bridge.

"You're going to see a lot of work going on over the next couple of years," said Stamper. 

The Canadian Transit Company plans to move the area's fire hall to the other side of Huron Church Road, fix up neighbourhood roads around the existing bridge and build a truck plaza, which Stamper insists will be smaller than rumours would have people believe.

"The truth is it's about six and a half acres," he said "It's already part of the bridge plaza so we're not going to be extending into the community."

Canadian workers used for construction

Stamper said the company plans to buy local materials wherever possible as it builds the $1-billion bridge.

"All the work we're going to be doing in Canada will be sourced in Canada," he said.

Stamper blamed the Canadian government for not providing answers for years about whether a second bridge would ever be built at the site, causing the company to get a "bad rap."

"Have we done some things wrong? Yes," he conceded. "Has the government done some things wrong? Yes. The good news now is I think we're on the same page."

Stamper declined to comment on the future of the Gordie Howe Bridge, promised by the Canadian government for years and set to be constructed just kilometres away, other than saying the border isn't busy enough to support two crossings.

"The issues of a competing bridge are in somebody else's hands," he said. "We've made it clear how we feel about it. Traffic doesn't warrant it."