The Detroit International Bridge Company has received a permit that company officials say means it can now proceed with a $1-billion twin span over the Detroit River.

In a news release sent out Wednesday afternoon, the Bridge Company declared “The Ambassador Bridge will now build North America’s longest cable stayed bridge next to the original span of the privately funded Ambassador Bridge which was the longest suspension bridge when it opened in 1929.”

Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, in announcing the approval of the application, said “the Windsor-Detroit gateway is the busiest commercial land border crossing between Canada and the United States. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring sufficient capacity to maintain an efficient trade corridor that can handle trade and traffic growth for the long-term, benefitting Canadians for generations to come.”

“As a key component of the Windsor-Detroit gateway, the 87-year old Ambassador Bridge is important to the economic well-being of the region, particularly to the automotive industry and for daily commuter traffic between Windsor and Detroit, and needs to be replaced,” added Garneau.

The permit in question is the International Bridges and Tunnels Act (IBTA), which is under federal jurisdiction through Transport Canada.

As part of the project, the new Ambassador Bridge will replace the existing structure, which will eventually be knocked down.

“We especially thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada for issuance of the final permit supporting our Company to make this major investment in international infrastructure,” said Matthew Maroun, whose family owns the Ambassador Bridge.

“There have been many challenges our company has faced over the years in pursuit of this moment” added Maroun. “We are now tasked with the duty to construct a privately funded bridge with the hard work of thousands of engineers, steel workers, construction experts that will be employed to deliver this once in a lifetime project.”

The proposed twin span would be six lanes, three in each direction. The project would include new and expanded CBSA commercial facilities and 12 additional commercial inspection booths.

The Bridge Company also says it is fully funding the $1-billion project privately.

“We know there are those who never thought our permit would be approved. Hopefully, now we can all come together and take pride in watching a new bridge rise across the shared border between our great nations,” said Maroun.

Windsor West New Democrat MP Brian Masse was caught off guard by the announcement.

“This type of announcement usually is done for Canadians by Canadian representatives not an American billionaire,” says Masse. “This is certainly not the way the community should learn about significant information and news.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens tells CTV Windsor he is still seeking more information.

“We are just waiting for the details in the permit so we know what the impacts will be in Olde Sandwich Towne and how that pertains to ongoing litigation between the City and the Bridge Company, as well as other issues” says Dilkens.

But Bridge company president Dan Stamper tells CTV Windsor they plan to start demolition of the homes in west Windsor as soon as possible.

Stamper adds they anticipate the new bridge will be open by 2020.

That would be quicker than the proposed completion date of the $4.8-billion Gordie Howe International Bridge, which has been set for 2022.

But Garneau said the Ambassador Bridge project is subject to conditions “that will ensure the efficiency, safety and security of the crossing and mitigate the impacts of the project on the local community. The conditions include the dismantling of the existing bridge when the replacement bridge is open, improving local infrastructure, creating new public green spaces, and protecting the environment and considering Indigenous interests.”

Heather Grondin, the vice president of communications and stakeholder relations for the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), adds the Gordie Howe International Bridge project is separate and distinct from the plans by the Ambassador Bridge owners.

Grondin adds the Government of Canada and WDBA remain fully committed to delivering the project.

"We are making significant progress with over $350 million committed to preparatory activities in Canada and the US, over 70 per cent of required US property under MDOT’s control, and the public-private partnership procurement process underway" says Grondin.

She adds the new Gordie Howe International Bridge addresses future needs and will provide six lanes to meet the anticipated growth in traffic over the years to come.

"It will also provide for redundancy at the busiest trade corridor between Canada and the United States in case of emergencies or unforeseen events, provides for a freeway-to-freeway border transportation system with the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, and provides for improved border processing at what will be among the largest Ports of Entry in Canada and the US," states Grondin.