Feds ordered Gordie Howe Bridge budget review after cost concerns: Report

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Gordie Howe Bridge
Rendering of the Gordie Howe Bridge

The federal government has ordered a review of the budget for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge connecting Windsor to Detroit after concerns arose that the cost was in danger of exceeding spending targets, according to newly released documents reported by The Canadian Press.

Officials found ways to save money on the bridge “without significantly changing the risk” to the federal government, noted one slide from a presentation that was delivered to senior government officials last October, CP reported.

The review was focused on construction costs after the Crown agency overseeing the project heard concerns from the three bidders about meeting the government’s budget expectations, insiders were quoted as saying.

Experts from both within and outside government were consulted early last fall to evaluate the concerns of bidders and to find the necessary savings through technical changes to the project.

A spokesman for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority said the Crown agency had to ensure it was “providing value to Canadian taxpayers,” but declined to answer further questions about the spending review.

The government is keeping a tight lid on the bridge’s cost. Federal spending projections account for some $4.8 billion, including costs to prepare and purchase properties, construction of the bridge itself and building new customs plazas on both each side of the Canada-U.S. border.

In return, the government and the private company that’s to build and operate the new crossing together hope to collect enough toll revenue over the first 30 years of its life to recoup the cost.

The Liberals are likely to find out in the next few weeks if the savings identified in the “affordability review” will yield the intended results when the three groups vying for the project file their financial bids, the report says.

A group of deputy ministers was briefed in late October about the proposed changes to construction plans and the spending review, as well as the effects on cash flow, the risks to private capital and project timelines.

All dollar figures have been redacted from the presentation, which was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, on the grounds that the information could harm Canada’s economic and financial interests.

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