Letter to Trudeau & Ministers – Open Tender for Gordie Howe Bridge to Conventional Bridge Designs

Oct 11, 2017 @ 08:08

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
Minister of Infrastructure & Communities – Amarjeet Sohi
Minister of Transport – Marc Garneau

Good Morning Gentlemen,

I have received the following Open Letter for publication. These two well-respected engineers have some valid concerns about the skyrocketing costs of ‘Signature’ or Cable-Stayed Bridges.

(emailed link to letter)

As a tax payer, I am astounded at the costs that we will pay in order to have ‘Signature’ bridges. There has always been a trend for politicians to be remembered… a legacy as they did great things for the public they represent.

However, critical pieces of infrastructure should be named in honour after the fact – not a deal brokered in hopes of being remembered. This current trend for ‘Signature Bridges’, favouring beauty over functionality or practicality is out of control. The recently revealed cost overruns by CBC of the Port Mann Bridge are shocking. The design of critical infrastructure must be practical and aesthetically pleasing, with due respect given to the taxpayer who pays.

I certainly agree that the tender process for the Gordie Howe International Bridge should be opened to allow for a bridge design that is respectful of taxpayer’s pockets as well beautiful.

I look forward to hearing that contact has been made with these engineers.

Brenda Grundt



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
Minister of Infrastructure & Communities – Amarjeet Sohi
Minister of Transport – Marc Garneau


Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron, this twinned bridge is the 4th busiest Ontario/US border crossing and 2nd busiest commercial Ontario/US crossing (of 11). The original span was built in 1938, the second in 1997.

This open letter to you reports on our findings on the viability and cost of Cable-Stayed Bridges vs Conventional Bridges, published in Wawa-News.com in Northern Ontario as a result of reporting about the Cable-Stayed Nipigon River Bridge and subsequent costs after its failure just 6 weeks after it opened on January 10, 2016.


Below are cost calculations for proposed and actual bridge designs. These show the cost of “Signature Bridges”, which has come to mean Cable-Stayed Bridge, is far in excess, often 10 times or more, than conventional bridge designs.


Cost Comparison (in $ millions) of Some Recent and Proposed Landmark Bridges (factored for inflation *)

Present Estimate (in $ millions) Cost to Twin             Cost Ratio and Type
Gordie Howe International Bridge, Windsor $4,2000 $350


Cable-Stayed vs. Suspension

Port Mann Bridge, Vancouver $3,300 $300


Cable-Stayed vs. Through Arch

Champlain Bridge, Montreal $4,200 $416


Cable-Stayed vs. Steel Truss

Golden Ears Bridge, Vancouver $808 $600 (Budget) Cable –Stayed vs. Ferry
George Massey Bridge, Vancouver $3,500 $140


Cable-Stayed vs. Tunnel

Blue Water Bridge, Sarnia $107 $20


Through Arch vs. Steel Truss

* The Inflation Factors were based on the Bank of Canada Consumer Price Index (CPI). Another base to consider is the R S Means Construction Cost Indices Table. We did not find a significant difference.


These numbers tell a story and raise serious questions:

  1. Why are all the current bridges specified “Exclusively Cable-Stayed” when they are so costly compared to conventional bridge design?
  2. Why is the proposed (and recently cancelled) George Massey Cable-Stayed Bridge 25 times the Tunnel Cost?
  3. Why are all these Cable-Stayed bridge costing so many times the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

The important thing to do now is to open the tender on the Gordie Howe International Bridge to conventional bridge designs.

We would very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss these findings with your senior staff at your earliest convenience, in the public interest.

Yours sincerely,

David Adams, P. Eng., MBA (McGill): Three times President of Professional Engineers Ontario.

Michael Hogan, P. Eng., PhD (Western): Structural Designer of the First Post-Tensioned Steel Cable-Stayed Structure in the world (Baxter Theme Building in Suburban Chicago).