Progress continues on Gordie Howe Bridge, final plans unveiled for pedestrian bridges

View from inside of bridge | Gordie Howe International Bridge team

After months of discussion with residents in the affected area, officials announced that a set of designs have been selected for five pedestrian bridges to be built as part of the U.S. side of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

The design features a curved steel arch and will be constructed of precast concrete. The bridges will include lighting features and will be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The bridges will be located over Interstate 75 in Detroit and are expected to be completed by November 2024.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at Gordie Howe Bridge announcement | Ken Coleman

“This project is good for the Detroit community, our economy, and for the countless people who will use these new pedestrian bridges to get where they need to go,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during the Thursday announcement at the Windsor-Detroit Building Authority Southwest Detroit Community Office. “When working on this project, it’s crucial that we put Detroiters’ well-being first, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here today.”

The pedestrian bridges are part of a $5.7 billion cable-stayed bridge and border crossing across the Detroit River that will connect Detroit and Windsor, Ontario in Canada. Former Gov. Rick Snyder backed the bridge that will be owned jointly by the American and Canadian governments. 

The Howe is designed to relieve traffic on the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, which is located in the same community. After vigorous debate the Moroun family, which owns the Ambassador Bridge and wants to build a second span to address traffic flow, the former President Obama administration in 2013 granted Michigan the permit required to build the Howe bridge. 

Its groundbreaking occurred in July 2018 and construction is expected to be completed in 2024. 

Ambassador Bridge | Ken Coleman

However, in 2017, the Moroun family announced that the Canada government had approved a permit for the family to build a second span. The following year, the family asked the President Trump administration to nix the Howe project.

However, the Gordie Howe Bridge project received $15 million for inspection and screening systems in a spending bill signed by Trump last month, the Detroit News reported

A major consideration in the Gordie Howe project planning has been involving community members. Community feedback over three months helped to inspire the design of the pedestrian bridges and will continue throughout the planning and construction of the bridge, Bryce Phillips, Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority CEO pointed out.

Another consideration heard throughout the community engagement process is providing connectivity on both sides of I-75.

Community benefits program announced for Gordie Howe Bridge

“The new pedestrian bridges will improve access to neighborhoods, businesses and service providers on both sides of I-75,” Aaron Epstein, Bridging North America CEO. “We also see them serving as conduits for bicyclists and other recreation-seekers headed for the US Port of Entry and, ultimately, the multi-use path on the bridge.”

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) represents the area where the bridge will be built. She has participated in community meetings and supports the engagement process related to the Howe project. In Detroit, the Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO) in play since 2016 requires developers to engage with the community to identify community benefits and address potential negative impacts of certain development projects.

“Today’s announcement is another step forward for the project and for infrastructure improvements in Southwest Detroit, resulting from long-term partnerships and community engagement,” Chang said.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.