Red tower craneBlue tower craneIt’s a sign that construction is ramping up for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Two tower cranes and two smaller mobile crawler cranes now pierce the skyline along the Detroit River. There is one of each crane on the Canadian and US construction sites as crews work on the tower footings for the new 2.5 kilometre/1.5 mile Gordie Howe International Bridge.

The tower cranes currently stand at 81 metres/265 feet tall but will be ‘jumped’ every few months before reaching their final height of 250 metres/822 feet. They are used to lift heavy materials such as rebar, formwork, cable anchor boxes and stay cables for the two massive bridge towers being built on each side of the project. At their current height, the tower cranes are the equivalent of a  21-storey building. Once the cranes reach their final height, they will more than double the height of Windsor’s tallest building and will be taller than the 73-story GM Renaissance Centre in Detroit.

The tower cranes are bolted to concrete foundations for support and to provide stability and are comprised of three essential components: the mast (tower), a slewing unit which holds the machinery allowing the crane to rotate, and the jib – a horizontal arm that carries the load. Counterweights are added to the one side of the jib depending on the weight of the load being carried. At the top of the crane is the cabin where an operator sits. The crane operator climbs the tower to reach the cab and does a visual inspection on his ‘commute’ to work.

The tower cranes on each side of the border are virtually identical, with one exception - the crane on the Canadian side is red and the crane in the United States is blue.

The colours were deliberately chosen by Bridging North America (BNA), the private-sector partner responsible for the construction of the bridge, in homage to the national colours of Canada and the United States.

The tower cranes took 35 hours to construct and will remain in place until the end of the bridge construction.

Once complete, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will feature six lanes and a clear span of 853 metres / 0.53 miles with no piers in the water, making it the longest main span of any cable-stayed bridge in North America.