The two Gordie Howe International Bridge decks to be connected in June 2024

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The most significant moment in the historic construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge is imminent with the long-awaited connection of the two bridge decks scheduled before the end of June 2024. The connection of these decks will subsequently connect the United States to Canada via Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, at about 46 meters above the Detroit River.

27 pre-designed deck segments averaging about 15 meters long and 37.5 meters wide have been carefully launched from either side of the river. They have also been sequentially supported from the tower by the parallel installed stay cables. With less than 11 meters to go, Bridging North America’s tireless site crews (BNA) are now making final preparations before work starts on the final segment. Known as the midspan closure, this segment is one of the most exciting and critical moments in the construction of every stay cable bridge.

“This last piece is not like the others they’ve pieced together more quickly. The last section is a custom job. It will be cut to fit and partially has to be adjusted depending on what the temperature is, “said David Henderson. Henderson is the CEO of the project contractor, Bridging North America.

“Achieving the bridge deck connection is monumental in the progress on the Gordie Howe International Bridge project,” said Charl van Niekerk, CEO, of Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA). “This new bridge is the physical representation of the international cooperation that exists between the neighbouring communities in Windsor and Detroit, throughout Ontario and Michigan, and across North America.”

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Gordie Howe International Bridge to become the longest main span of any cable-stayed bridge in North America and the 10th longest in the world

Once connected, the Gordie Howe International Bridge deck will span a distance of 853 meters (0.53 miles). It will thus be the longest main span of any cable-stayed bridge in North America and the 10th longest in the world. Additionally, it will be the longest composite steel and concrete bridge deck for any cable-stayed bridge in the world.

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The bridge is designed as a gentle curve, anchored at each bank by graceful towers. The two towers with their imposing height of 220 m, and fan-shaped arrangement of 216 cables (108 on each side) create majestic portals that launch the bridge deck across the river.

The deck floats high above the water in a smooth arch and transitions seamlessly into the side spans at either end. The side spans on each side of the river are completed by 27 pairs of stay cables and 3 pairs of ancillary piers. The piers are reportedly fitted with tie-downs that transfer the loads directly into the ground.

“We combined engineering ingenuity and aesthetics in a unique display of elegance here,” said the Architect of the Bridge Erik Behrens (AECOM). “The aesthetic appeal of this cable-stayed bridge lies in the extreme slenderness of the deck. The deck in combination with its stay cables provides an impression of gravity-defying lightness and transparency. The patterns of the white stay cables create ever-changing moire effects when viewed from different angles. In addition, they lend the structure a beautiful kinetic and sculptural dimension,” added Behrens.

When will the Gordie Howe International Bridge be fully complete?

Gordie Howe International Bridge

The public will have to be patient though and won’t be immediately able to experience the beauty of this new structure. There will be further work required. BNA’s site teams will first have to complete the tensioning of the stay cables and install the road surfaces, barriers, and multi-use paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The team will also carry out other required technical and electrical systems and accessories necessary for the safe operation of the bridge.

Work is also ongoing on the finalization of the bridge lighting systems which will add another dimension to the project. “We are looking forward to working with a lighting artist on the programming of the light shows in the coming months to turn this bridge also into a nighttime sculpture and transformational work of public art.” Architect Behrens said.

The project—which also includes customs facilities on both borders and a new interchange to connect to Interstate 75 on the U.S. side—is not expected to be completed until fall of 2025. This new six-lane bridge will provide new border crossing capacity to meet increased long-term international trade and travel demand and is supposed to create new opportunities for economic growth in the wider region.

Named after the Canadian Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gordie Howe, this bridge will also be a tribute to two hockey-loving nations who share this great man’s sporting legacy. And when viewed from certain angles one might believe the form of each tower leg appears to echo the curvature of Gordie’s hockey stick mid-slapshot – Mr. Hockey’s most powerful and feared ‘shot’ on ice.

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