A regional advocacy group has outlined its recommendations for community benefits related to the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

The Windsor/Essex Community Benefits Coalition submitted the recommendations to the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority at the end of November.

The Windsor/Essex Community Benefits Coalition is made up residents and key organizational leadership from across Windsor-Essex County.

Over the past six months, the group has been doing community outreach to build a shared vision for establishing current and future community needs arising from the large infrastructure project.

“It was important to be advocates, but to also work collaboratively with all parties involved, including the wider community,” says Brian Gray, coalition co-chair. “We promised the community and those who participated in the outreach process we’d report back on the recommendations.”  

The WECBC seeks to become an ongoing partner with the WDBA and the eventual proponent who builds the bridge.

“The community needs a voice at the table,” says Joan Mavrinac, WECBC co-chair. “Because all of the impacts of this large project on our community are not yet known, and the partnership will ensure that, similar to many other examples from across Canada and around the world, there is a process and a legacy fund in place to strengthen the community and mitigate potentially negative local impacts.”

During the summer, 32 focus groups were held, more than half of which were in west Windsor and Sandwich, providing access to residents and groups most affected by the bridge project. 

Individuals in the focus groups self-identified as representing 52 different community groups, organizations and governing bodies from across the region. 

In addition to the focus groups, post-focus group surveys, and an online priority ranking survey were conducted, and made available in several languages through newcomer and settlement agencies, and the Coalition conducted door to door surveys in west Windsor.

The responses and feedback were themed and prioritized and sorted into 5 community benefit pillars.  The full report, which outlines the recommendations and the outreach process, is available on the WECBC Facebook page. A summary of the key recommendations is as follows:

 1.       Sandwich Town Revitalization - As the host community Sandwich town needs its fair share of this project. This could include:

o   preserving and enhancing the historic character of the community;

o   Streetscaping from “bridge to bridge”;

o   business incentives to ensure when people drive into Sandwich there is a vibrant business district; and

o   community programs  - possibly including social services, health, and educational programs 

2.       Environmental protection

o   Air quality monitoring,

o   creating new greenspaces, and

o   preservation of Ojibway shores.

3.       Education and Job Training opportunities

o   Education programming and supports for youth and adults; and

o   Job training programs for the construction, operation, maintenance and administration of the bridge.

4.       Gateway Connections – to draw people into our region, including:

o   a tourism information centre,

o   bilingual signage,

o   an attractive, welcoming and innovative bridge plaza.

5.       Mobility Infrastructure and Safety

o   Construction mitigation and long term traffic control,

o   Cycling and Pedestrian infrastructure,

o   Public transit connections, and

o   safety equipment and training for first responders.