Thank you very much.
And welcome to the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority’s first Annual Public Meeting. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and discuss the Gordie Howe International Bridge project and the progress that the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, or WDBA, made during our first fiscal year of operation.
We are here today at Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre, a heritage building located in the Sandwich in the west end of Windsor. For those of you who are joining us today by webcast and have not yet visited this historic community, I encourage you to do so some time soon.
I would like to start my remarks by speaking about the genesis of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.
Canada and the US have the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world with a total trade value of $870 billion per year. Much of that trade is carried by approximately 2.5 million trucks that cross here at Windsor-Detroit.
As the Chair noted in his comments, and I think this bears repeating - the Windsor-Detroit gateway sees over 30 per cent of the total Canada-U.S. trade carried by trucks. In dollar terms, this amounts to over $100 billion per year.
Due to its economic importance, this trade corridor was identified by the governments of Canada, the U.S., Michigan and Ontario to be significant to the economies in both countries. They recognized the need to provide redundancy, additional capacity, system connectivity, and improved border processing through the Windsor-Detroit gateway to improve the flow of people and goods between Canada and the United States.
The new Gordie Howe International Bridge addresses these needs. It will provide an efficient crossing option for passenger and commercial traffic as well as accommodate future traffic projections.
There are four major components to the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.
First, the bridge itself will be six lanes and three kilometres in length with an 850 metre, or half mile, long centre span.
Second, the Canadian Port of Entry will be 55 hectares, or 130 acres, and will include customs, border processing, tolling and maintenance facilities. When completed it will be Canada’s largest port of entry along the Canada-US border.
Third, the U.S. Port of Entry will be 60 hectares, or 148 acres, and includes customs and border processing facilities.
Fourth, there will be the interchange with Interstate 75 to allow easy access for traffic to and from the bridge.
While it is not part of the Gordie Howe International bridge project, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway which is an integral component of a new border crossing system.
Together, the Parkway, the new bridge, and the new I-75 interchange will provide a seamless highway-to-highway connection that will facilitate trade and travel between Canada and the United States.
This exciting and historic project will be delivered by the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.
The WDBA’s mandate is to oversee and manage the procurement process for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the Gordie Howe International Bridge through a public-private partnership.
WDBA will also oversee and manage the construction and operation of the new crossing.
WDBA was created in 2012 and it began operations in August 2014. At that time, the Government of Canada announced the names of the Board of Directors and the International Authority. (acknowledge IA members present)
I also was appointed in August 2014 as President and Chief Executive Office of WDBA and became WDBA’s first employee.
My priorities were three-fold: to set up the corporation and build capacity; to transition certain project activities and responsibilities from the Government of Canada to WDBA, and to undertake pre-procurement activities, enabling WDBA to move toward public-private partnership, or P3, procurement for project delivery.
I am pleased to report that during the 2014/2015 fiscal period we accomplished a great deal.
We established a head office in downtown Windsor and became one of Windsor newest employers. Staffing began and the WDBA executive team was created.
I would like to take a moment introduce members of the WDBA executive team:
- Leslie Martin, Executive Vice President of Engineering and Operations
- Marta Leardi-Anderson – Vice President of Policy and Project Delivery
- Linda Hurdle – Chief Financial Administrative officer
- John Nader – General Counsel
- And Heather Grondin, Vice President of Communications and Stakeholder Relations.
WDBA is made up of a group of dedicated employees. To date, we have hired over 40 people with engineering, technical, procurement, environmental, financial, legal, policy and communications expertise.
Our first year of operations was busy and our staff worked long hours to achieve significant progress. I would like to thank all of the WDBA employees for their dedication, support and commitment.
I would also like to take a moment to recognize our collaboration with the US Federal Highway Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Office of the Governor of Michigan. We have some representatives from these organizations with us today. (acknowledge those in attendance – Andy Doctoroff; more to be confirmed) WDBA works with their staff on a daily basis and the dedication, support and commitment of these team members is parallel to that of our own WDBA staff.
To fully transition responsibilities from government departments, several external advisory services have been retained by WDBA. These include
Financial and Transaction advisors, Capital Markets advisors, Legal advisors and a P3 Fairness Monitor.
We are also take advantage of public sector best practices by retaining the services of Public Services and Procurement Canada to assist with the procurement process.
While operations have been transitioned from federal government departments to WDBA, we work in close cooperation with Infrastructure Canada, Transport Canada, and with Public Services and Procurement Canada recognizing this this project is a top priority for the Government of Canada.
During fiscal 2014-2015, the WDBA began specific pre-procurement activities.
In August 2014, we started to look at design options for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and tolling systems for the new bridge. ITS will assist with the management of traffic through technologies and will integrate with existing ITS systems, such as variable message boards to alert traffic of traffic issues, in both Ontario and Michigan. The tolling systems designs will include ways to expedite toll collection on the new bridge such as including transponders.
In January 2015, following a competitive process, WDBA awarded a contract to Parsons Inc. to provide engineering work and technical advice for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project. Under the contract, Parsons Inc., acts as the General Engineering Consultant, providing a range of professional engineering services to prepare the project for the P3 procurement process.
The work includes project management, engineering studies, technical design, utility relocation, and development of the specifications for all components of the crossing project on both sides of the border.
Also in fiscal 2014-2015, the Governments of Canada, the United States and Michigan continued discussions on a number of issues. In February 2015, Canada, the United States and Michigan concluded an Arrangement concerning the U.S. Port of Entry.
The Arrangement ensures that all the elements of the project will ultimately be delivered through a public-private partnership. With this agreement, WDBA was able to move the project forward.
Although I should limit my comments today on fiscal 2014-2015, I would like to reference some of the exciting work which has taken place over all of 2015.
In April, 2015, the International Authority approved MDOT’s plan to begin property acquisition in Michigan. Michigan is responsible for all US Property Acquisition for the Project. Properties necessary for the Michigan side of the project have been refined through a set of Marked Final Right of Way Plans. To-date, MDOT has led a team of consultants, the Michigan Attorney General’s office, and the Special Assistant Attorneys General in the purchase of a number of properties.
Also in Michigan, utility relocations began.
In May 2015, the new bridge was officially named the Gordie Howe International Bridge through a joint Canada-Michigan announcement.
In July 2015, WDBA started, and just recently completed, the first stage of a two-stage procurement process to select the private-sector partner.
In October 2015, we began what is known as the Early Works activities at the site of the Canadian Port of Entry.
Early Works includes construction of a four kilometre access road, utility relocations and the placement of significant quantities of fill to stabilize the ground. Completion of these Early Works is required to prepare the Canadian Port of Entry site for the work to be undertaken by the private-sector partner.
The Early Works project has dramatically changed the landscape and is the first visible sign of the start of construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.
Looking forward, WDBA will continue to work in close coordination with our partners and our stakeholders.
We will continue utility relocation and property acquisition on the US side of the project and will continue with the Early Works activities on the Canadian side
And, we will conclude the P3 procurement process.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Gordie Howe International Bridge project is making history. These are exciting times for WDBA. Indeed, this is an exciting time for the region.
I am proud to be a part of what was referred to in a Canadian senate committee as “our beautiful project” and I am pleased that Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority is well positioned and prepared for the tasks that lay ahead.