Slump­ing loonie could add $3.5B to cost of Wind­sor Detroit bridge

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment will need to find $3.5 bil­lion more to pay for a new bridge at the bustling border cross­ing be­tween Canada and the United States.

Doc­u­ments show Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has been warned that the cost of build­ing the new Wind­sor-Detroit bridge has likely gone up by at least $2 bil­lion, thanks to the de­clin­ing value of the Cana­dian dol­lar.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials told Trudeau the project would also need an ex­tra $1.5 bil­lion in a con­tin­gency fund to bear the shock of any in­ter­est rate in­creases should the loonie de­cline fur­ther against its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part.

The gov­ern­ment’s long-term fis­cal frame­work has the price of the bridge, to be named af­ter hockey leg­end Gordie Howe, pegged at $4.8 bil­lion.

The de­tails are laid out in a se­cret brief­ing note to Trudeau ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act. The Wind­sor-Detroit cross­ing is the busiest com­mer­cial trade cross­ing be­tween the U.S. and Canada.

Al­most one quar­ter of all goods mov­ing be­tween the two coun­tries pass over the ex­ist­ing bridge and through the tun­nel con­nect­ing Detroit and Wind­sor.

The long-sought new bridge built over the Detroit River spawned a hard-fought po­lit­i­cal bat­tle among na­tional, state, provin­cial and lo­cal politi­cians and the pri­vate owner of the ex­ist­ing Am­bas­sador Bridge.

To make the project a re­al­ity, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment agreed last year to pay for all con­struc­tion costs, in­clud­ing $250 mil­lion for the in­spec­tion plaza on the Amer­i­can side of the river, with a plan to re­coup the costs through tolls.

The gov­ern­ment expects to col­lect about $4 bil­lion in tolls over 30 years — more than enough, Trudeau was told, to cover the $2-bil­lion cost in­crease that con­sul­tants from Deloitte cal­cu­lated in Oc­to­ber.

Oth­er­wise, the doc­u­ments said, the costs could only be re­cov­ered “be­fore the end of the use­ful life of the bridge,’’ adding in brack­ets, “100 years.’’

Three se­lect com­pa­nies will be given the op­por­tu­nity in “early 2016’’ to bid on the con­struc­tion work, said Mark But­ler, a spokesman for the Wind­sorDetroit Bridge Author­ity, the Crown cor­po­ra­tion that is over­see­ing the project.

But­ler didn’t de­fine “early 2016’’ and had yet to re­spond to fol­lowup ques­tions af­ter email­ing a short state­ment to The Cana­dian Press.

CP PHOTO

A photo of hockey great Gordie Howe was un­veiled at the an­nounce­ment that the Detroit River In­ter­na­tional Cross­ing will be named the Gordie Howe In­ter­na­tional Bridge, on the wa­ter­front, in Wind­sor, Ont., last year.

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