Material supply, strikes and COVID-19 driving potential delays on Gordie Howe bridge: Construction association

·3 min read
Construction on the Gordie Howe International bridge began in October 2018.  (Gordie Howe International Bridge/ Twitter - image credit)
Construction on the Gordie Howe International bridge began in October 2018. (Gordie Howe International Bridge/ Twitter - image credit)

A Windsor construction association that represents Gordie Howe International Bridge contractors is not surprised that supply chain issues and labour woes could push back the completion date.

Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, said many projects in the region are playing catch up in wake of the pandemic.

"Since things have opened up, there's just so much volume out there we're trying to catch up to, as are all the material suppliers, so it's been really challenging to get all the materials in a timely manner to run any job, let alone that big bridge job," Lyons said.

Lyons added that steel and concrete are the two big materials that they're waiting on. Strikes in the industrial commercial institutional sector could have also played a role in slightly delaying the bridge, he said.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge is a bilateral effort to ease bottlenecks at the single-busiest trade corridor across the Canada-U.S. border between Windsor and Detroit. Construction began October 2018 — more than 20 years after the idea was first proposed.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

According to reporting from the Windsor Star, an analyst report by S&P Global says that the opening of the bridge, which was expected to happen by the end of 2024, could be pushed back to April 2025.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority said it is still working toward having the bridge open to traffic by the contracted date, which is the end of 2024.

"The contractor (Bridging North America) is obligated to meet the contract date specified in the Project Agreement and make adjustments to their construction approach to manage any delays they encounter," the statement reads.

But it said that given how large of a project it is, challenges could come up that impact the schedule.

"The pandemic is one example of a challenge, and it, among other issues may lead to adjustments in schedule," it said, adding that it is "actively assessing the potential impacts of the pandemic on the project schedule."

Tom Coke, a member of the Sandwich Towne Business Improvement Association, said he hasn't heard any complaints from businesses in the area over the potential delay.

"If the past couple of years have taught us anything it's you know we need to be as adaptable as possible and when you have something that's as important as that second span come in currently at the business level I have had no concerns or no issues raised for any of the BIA businesses about a six-month delay," Coke said.

Meanwhile, Lyons said it's unclear whether the government will hold the contractor to certain penalties that they could face if they pass the scheduled finish date. He said it's uncertain considering the cause for the delay was out of their control.

Gordie Howe International Bridge/ Twitter
Gordie Howe International Bridge/ Twitter

"Hopefully they'll be able to work out and make up some of those differences and if not then they cut the ribbon a little later in the day, it's not going to make or break — I don't think — the economy," he said.

Despite the delay in materials, Lyons said workers on site are still busy with work.

"It'll get done, it might take a little longer as they said, but at the end of the day they'll do their best to get it on time," he said.