At its annual conference on May 18, 2021, the US-based National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) announced that the Gordie Howe International Bridge project’s Post-NEPA Environmental Compliance and Management and Compliance Program won NAEP’s Environmental Excellence Award for Best Available or Innovative Technology.

This $5.7B infrastructure project consists of four components: a new bridge spanning the Detroit River between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, MI; two new ports of entry to facilitate international passenger and commercial traffic; and local road improvements including interchange connections to I-75.

“WDBA and the Michigan Department of Transportation have worked together with Bridging North America to continually assess a broad range of environmental impacts and to implement corresponding measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate those impacts,” said Grant Hilbers, Director - Environmental, for Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA). “On behalf of the Gordie Howe International Bridge Project’s Environmental Management Team on both sides of the US - Canada border, we thank NAEP for this award in highlighting the importance of follow through, and diligent work to honor our industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Also on hand to receive the award at NAEP’s virtual event were Justin Kelley, Bridging North America’s (BNA) Lead Environmental Officer, Andrea Peak, US Environmental Design Lead and Brian P. Kennedy, US Senior Planner, both from AECOM. BNA is WDBA’s private-sector partner for the project and AECOM is a sub-design consultant.

The effort to design and construct the Gordie Howe International Bridge project began more than a decade ago said Hilbers, and has always included a strong focus on ESG principles which resulted in commitments contained in the EIS Record of Decision for the US components and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Report.

To meet the rigorous environmental standards BNA has developed an ISO 14001 standard environmental management system which has been a positive impact on project delivery with develop and implementation support from AECOM. The commitment links policies and online tools and is driven by more than 100 environmental professionals from WDBA, BNA, AECOM and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

“Our program involves managing design and construction, through a comprehensive set of environmental monitoring plans, environmental training, interdisciplinary design and construction review, daily monitoring of all construction activities onsite, and formal audits, ” said Kelly.

“All requirements including the US record of decision and Canadian environmental assessment commitments and applicable regulations and other projects were placed into a tracking tool … (it) provided the basis for generating a management system,” said Peak. “The program includes 40 environmental plans in 10 disciplines and provides the mechanism to manage and monitor all environmental works..” 

According to Kennedy, for most environmental professionals, their careers demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship achieved through the analysis of existing conditions, characterization of environmental effects and the development of mitigation measures and other commitments. These are often left to be implemented by others “This program assures agencies, stakeholders and the public that the environmental commitments are being embraced during the project’s final design process and through every aspect of the construction process,” he said.