Windsor

Material supply, strikes, COVID-19 drive potential delays on Gordie Howe bridge: construction association

A Windsor, Ont., construction association that represents Gordie Howe International Bridge contractors isn't surprised that supply chain issues and labour woes could push back the date for completion of the international crossing.

Completion of bridge linking Windsor-Detroit set for end of 2024, but might be delayed by months

Construction on the Gordie Howe International bridge began in October 2018.
Construction on the Gordie Howe International bridge linking Windsor, Ont., and Detroit began in October 2018. (Gordie Howe International Bridge/ Twitter)

A Windsor, Ont., construction association that represents Gordie Howe International Bridge contractors isn't surprised that supply chain issues and labour woes could push back the date for completion of the international crossing.

Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, said many projects in the region are playing catch-up due to the pandemic.

"Since things have opened up, there's just so much volume out there we're trying to catch up to, as are all the material suppliers, so it's been really challenging to get all the materials in a timely manner to run any job, let alone that big bridge job," Lyons said. 

Lyons added that steel and concrete are the two big materials they're waiting on. Strikes in the industrial commercial institutional sector could have also played a role in slightly delaying the bridge, he said.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge is a bilateral effort to ease bottlenecks at the single-busiest trade corridor across the Canada-U.S. border between Windsor and Detroit. Construction began October 2018 — more than 20 years after the idea was first proposed. 

Jim Lyons is the executive director of the Windsor Construction Association. The group represents contractors working on the bridge.
Jim Lyons isexecutive director of the Windsor Construction Association, which represents contractors working on the bridge. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

According to reporting by the Windsor Star, an analyst report by S&P Global says the end-of-2024 expected opening of the bridge could be pushed to April 2025. 

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority said it is still working toward having the bridge open to traffic by the contracted date of the end of 2024. 

"The contractor (Bridging North America) is obligated to meet the contract date specified in the Project Agreement and make adjustments to their construction approach to manage any delays they encounter," the statement reads. 

But it said that given how large of a project it is, challenges could come up that could impact the schedule. 

"The pandemic is one example of a challenge, and it, among other issues, may lead to adjustments in schedule," it said, adding it is "actively assessing the potential impacts of the pandemic on the project schedule." 

Tom Coke, a member of the Sandwich Towne Business Improvement Association, said he hasn't heard any complaints from businesses in the area over the potential delay. 

"If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it's we need to be as adaptable as possible, and when you have something that's as important as that second span come in currently at the business level, I have had no concerns or no issues raised for any of the BIA businesses about a six-month delay," Coke said. 

Lyons said it's unclear whether the government will hold the contractor to certain penalties they could face if they can't meet the scheduled finish date. He said it's uncertain, considering the cause for any delay would be out of their control. 

Lyons says the bridge's price tag, which was originally estimated at $5.7 billion, might exceed that.
Lyons says that despite the delay in materials for the bridge, workers on site are still busy. (Gordie Howe International Bridge/ Twitter)

"Hopefully they'll be able to work out and make up some of those differences, and if not, then they cut the ribbon a little later in the day. It's not going to make or break — I don't think — the economy," he said. 

Despite the delay in materials, Lyons said workers on site are still busy. 

"It'll get done. It might take a little longer as they said, but at the end of the day, they'll do their best to get it on time." 

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