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Bridge Construction and Tariffs Fuel Canada- U.S. Tensions

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Fourteen years have passed since the Gordie Howe International Bridge was first proposed for development. It is, therefore, no surprise that this past July came as an exciting time for all parties involved, as the ground-breaking ceremony finally took place. While AECOM, a global infrastructure firm who won the bid for this project expects the bridge will be open and ready for use by 2022 or 2023, growing political tensions between the United States and Canada may negatively impact this project or question it’s purpose altogether.
What Can We Expect?
The Gordie Howe International Bridge, when completed, will feature six lanes of traffic, span eight hundred and fifty-three meters over the Detroit River, and will include a designated area for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge will be built utilizing a cable-stayed design, adding to the number of bridges throughout the world that are comprised of this form of construction.
The project will also include a three-kilometre road link to the I-75 in Detroit as well as “dedicated truck lanes on bridge and in the POEs; driver-friendly road lighting; safety design accommodations such as the ability to deal with truck breakdowns in a timely fashion with minimum impact on traffic flow; and an onsite weather monitoring station allowing for advanced notification of unfavorable conditions,” as reported by the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.
To cover the cost of this project, tolls will be collected at the Canadian crossing.
Tariffs and Trade Wars Causing Concern
From the moment the publicly owned, Canadian-funded, Gordie Howe International Bridge was first proposed; however, the project has generated both positive and negative attention. Designed to connect Windsor and Detroit, this bridge would provide another much-needed trade route for shipping companies to employ in transporting products and goods across the border.
With over 2.6 million trucks a year crossing between Windsor and Detroit, carrying $1.6 million in trade per minute, today’s ceremony paves the way for a brighter trading future for Canada and its largest trading partner.-CTA Chair, Scott Smith.
The recent trade war between Canada and the United States, however, is creating concern. According to the U.S. State Department, Canada and the United States are the largest bilateral trading partners in the world, as not only does it allow for an incredible exchange of goods between both countries, but this relationship is responsible for thousands of jobs on both sides of the border. Despite this relationship, a trade war is brewing.
Increased tariffs on steel and aluminum imports enforced by the United States have caused Canada to impose tariffs, in retaliation, on critical imports from our neighbours to the south. With more and more tariffs being put in place, it’s safe to assume that trade across the Canada-U.S. border will be impacted as well. While it is difficult to predict how this trade war will affect the number of trucks utilizing key border crossings, some are starting to question if building a bridge that was designed to decrease congestion in Windsor and increase trade routes with the United States, is a sound investment at this time.
Patriotism and Individual Interest Coming into Play
A trade war isn’t the only obstacle that this project is facing, however. The Moroun family, who owns the Detroit Ambassador Bridge and operates the Detroit International Bridge Company have been working to stop the project, as they claim that a Canadian-funded and Canadian-built bridge is a poor economic move for the United States. One of the main arguments is that the steel and labour, needed for the construction of the bridge, would be sourced from Canada instead of the United States. This argument has been pushed even more so with the introduction of steel tariffs that would keep Canada utilizing its own steel resources. The Obama Administration’s signing of a “Buy American waiver” for Canada allows Canada to only employ it’s resources instead of sharing the load with the United States.
The Ambassador Bridge has allowed for the transportation of goods across the border for years, but much work needs to be done to repair the bridge and increase its efficiency. In a report by the Canada West Foundation, shipping delays cost Canada between fifteen to thirty billion each year and could become the same reality for the United States by 2020. While Canada has approved the construction of a second span of the Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family continues to claim that the Gordie Howe International Bridge project is not treating the United States fairly.
The Moroun family has gone so far as to release an ad designed to sway President Donald Trump to align with the best interests of the United States.
Many people living in the Windsor area are not convinced, however, as with the new span of the Ambassador bridge, residential areas in Windsor’s west end are falling into disrepair and devaluing the area altogether. The Detroit International Bridge Company has been purchasing homes in the area since the 1990’s to prepare for an expansion to the current Ambassador Bridge. Canada is insisting that if this expansion is to take place, that Windsor’s west end must be developed into public parkland, after destroying the abandoned and run-down homes that it owns in the area. Needless to say, this new expansion will impact the landscape of the Windsor area significantly.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the legal battles, negotiations and implications surrounding the original Ambassador Bridge, the new bridge that will hopefully replace it, and the Gordie Howe International Bridge that will work to continue to improve trade relations between Canada and the United States. The next few years will be telling of how Canada and the United States can work together to not only invest in this new infrastructure but improve trade relations as well.

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