Communities impacted by construction of the $5.7-billion Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor and Detroit learned what kind of kick-backs they’ll be receiving for hosting the massive new down-river crossing.

Representatives from the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority were joined by private sector partner, Bridging North America and politicians of all levels from both sides of the border to announce details of the much-anticipated community benefits plan, which is valued at $20 million.

The plan consists of two components: Workforce development and neighbourhood infrastructure.

According to the bridge authority, the workforce development and participation strategy is geared toward engaging business and providing employment opportunities, including training and pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship.

“The plan’s initiatives are designed so that the people located most directly adjacent to the Gordie Howe International Bridge project will be among its truest beneficiaries,” says Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority CEO, Bryce Phillips. “The Community Benefits plan will help to create jobs and better local communities.”

The workforce development plan calls for the implementation of a regional small business purchase protocol to foster growth of small companies in the region. Local workforce development agencies will also partner with the WDBA to encourage applications from local applicants for jobs and skill development opportunities.

“We all know that the people in our communities on each side of the border will be a strong anchor point for this project, which is why this announcement today to invest in these areas is so critical,” says Gretchen Whitmer, the Governor of Michigan.

The Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy is a $20 million (CAD) investment on both sides of the border, developed through public feedback and input. Twenty-nine initiatives and 24 delivery partners located in Windsor, Detroit and Walpole Island have been identified as part of the strategy. The plan will bring local road improvements,

The costs will be broken down as follows:

• $8.1 million for aesthetics and landscaping

• $3.5 million for community safety and connections

• $2.2 million for community partnerships

• $1.1 million for economic benefits

One of the community benefits will provide support for an eco-passage between Black Oak Heritage Park and Ojibway Park in Windsor, which are very close to the footprint of the new crossing.

“This project is a large undertaking, almost as large as our gratitude to the WDBA, for not only their support for this project, but also their engagement with the community,” says Karen Cedar, a naturalist at Windsor’s Ojibway Nature Centre.

Another benefit that was hinted at during consultations by the Canadian Infrastructure Minister is being included in the project – which will see free tolls for pedestrian traffic over the bridge.

The benefits are being delivered after consultation and feedback received between 2015 and 2018, as well as another six-month targeted consultation period after Bridging North America was chosen as the private sector partner. According to the WDBA, upwards of 70 meetings were attended by more than 1,000 stakeholders.

“In addition to the 2,500 direct jobs Bridging North America expects to be created by the project, the comprehensive community benefits plan announced today will have wide-ranging positive social, economic and environmental impacts on Windsor-Essex and Detroit,” says Francois-Phillippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. He says those include “targeted workforce development initiatives that will foster training, business opportunities and local employment for workers including First Nations, youth and women.”