Gordie Howe Bridge delays explained by DWBA, critics
Published Tuesday, November 15, 2016 5:54PM EST
The plan to build the Gordie Howe International Bridge is taking the next step. But because of a year-long delay in issuing the requests for proposals, officials say the original 2020 opening date is no longer possible.
Interim DWBA chair Dwight Duncan is laying the blame at the feet of the harper conservative government.
"It's a mug's game to predict 'this will be done on Dec. 31st, 2020.' That was just, in my view, utter nonsense,” he told CTV News during an exclusive interview after the RFP’s were issued. “The community was not well served by that type of political posturing."
The process to choose the eventual constructor will take another 18 months: 12 months for three consortia to submit final bids, and six months for the Bridge Authority to examine and select the winner. That group will be responsible for designing, building, financing, maintaining and operating the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Duncan maintains the project is urgent, but figures a 2022 deadline is more realistic. "I'm not going to be held to any one specific date," he notes.
Previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the 2020 commitment when he was still in office. Former Conservative MP for Essex Jeff Watson says Harper saw the bridge as the most important infrastructure project in Canada. Harper publicly announced the target completion date to ensure the project had the right focus.
Duncan says delays were partly due to property acquisition issues. He says the Bridge Authority delayed issuing the RFP to mitigate the risks before they moved ahead.
Watson argues the RFP could have been released on time, almost a year ago. He says the authority and the treasury board could have managed project risks concurrently, rather than consecutively, to ensure the project moved quickly.
Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse says that focus is now lost due to a lack of political will.
“The government actually set their own original deadlines and they actually just didn't meet them, you actually can set deadlines on these projects and you probably should," said Masse.
All along, Masse has advocated for a design-build process and blames the decision to build with a public-private partnership for holding up the project.
“The sooner we get the border crossing built, the sooner people can make decisions about economic development and retooling plants and also new plants,” Masse says. “Having these set deadlines and expectations are very important for the private sector."
Bridge Authority CEO Michael Cautillo says a concrete date should be known when the constructor is chosen, in the Spring of 2018.
Duncan also pledges to be more transparent -- and more accountable to the public.
"If there are slow downs, we're going to tell you about them. None of this false bravado."