As the Ambassador Bridge turns 90 — where is the replacement span?

North America's busiest international crossing nears a century, as the bridge company prepares to build the second span.

A replacement bridge was approved by the Canadian government in 2017

The construction of the Ambassador Bridge finished on November 11, 1929 and opened to traffic days later. (CBC)

The Ambassador Bridge has connected Canada and the United States for 90 years — and current construction work will extend the lifespan for another 75 years, according to the company which owns and operates the crossing. 

That's a long time for a bridge the Canadian government wants demolished five years after the company builds its approved replacement span. 

For years, the Ambassador Bridge has been at the heart of battles between the owner, the federal government and the communities the bridge connects.

Those battles include court challenges over boarded up homes, commercials appealing to President Donald Trump to reject a government owned bridge project and the City of Windsor hiring a lawyer to stop the construction of a second span.

Federal governments sorting it out

When the government quietly announced they had approved an application from the Canadian Transportation Company (CTC) to build and operate a six-lane international bridge in 2017, it outlined nearly 30 terms and conditions while referring to it as a replacement bridge. 

Construction work on the Ambassador Bridge is expected to add another 70 years to the life of the bridge. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

The order-in-council conditions induces that a time and cost estimate for the demolition of the Ambassador Bridge be provided to the Minister of Transport before construction of the replacement bridge.

It's also stipulated that the Ambassador Bridge must be demolished five years after the replacement bridge opens to traffic.

But the owner of the bridge has said that's something they can't do — because the replacement bridge's permits in the United States were approved under the condition the Ambassador Bridge stay standing.

Two years later, nothing has changed.

WATCH: In 2017, bridge company president Dan Stamper gives CBC News his thoughts on tearing down the Ambassador Bridge.

Bridge Demolition

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

"We're having the two countries have that discussion, to let us know what to do." said Stan Korosec, director of Canadian government relations and security for CTC. "This is beyond us."

Canada argues it's a safety and security risk, while the American permit includes conditions from the State Historic Preservation Office that the bridge carries historical significance and must be preserved.

Korosec said, until that's settled, the company will continue to maintain the bridge so it's safe for the thousands of vehicles that use the international crossing each day. 

A spokesperson for Transport Canada confirmed that CTC has not submitted documents to show they have met the pre-construction conditions, which have not changed since they were announced two years ago.

Sandwich Towne: What could have been?

"When I look at the bridge, it doesn't give me fond memories," said Fabio Costante, ward councillor for the area.

"I think about 120 or more boarded up properties that could have been livable properties for families," said Costante, sitting in his Law Office in the heart of one Ontario's oldest communities.

"I wonder about it a lot, and what it could have done for the stability and vibrancy of Sandwich Towne."

WATCH: Adam Wydrzynski reflects on his childhood home being slated for demolition in 2017.

Slated for Demo

6 years ago
Duration 1:37
Adam Wydrzynski tours his old neighbourhood as homes are demolished.

Starting in 2004, the bridge company bought more than 100 properties in the community, homes they neglected and left boarded up for years until the city issued demolition permits for dozens of the homes since the replacement span was approved.

Costante said the Canadian conditions clearly call for the bridge to meet the same fate as the family homes purchased for its replacement's path: a complete demolition.

'A lot of work to get done'

"It's another example of the bridge company doing things unilaterally without accepting our laws, and our agreements that have been made," said Costante.

The City of Windsor is negotiating with CTC for the replacement span to move ahead, with many conditions calling for road closures and reconstruction, according to councillor Costante. 

Korosec, standing beside the 90-year-old bridge as construction crews work to re-enforce the ramp on the Canadian side, said the demolition of the houses has been a "big improvement."

He said the company is working with stakeholders in the community and are working on plans to re-develop property the don't need.

"There's a lot of work to get done."