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Hot Topics - Wednesday, Dec 8

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Gordie Howe International Bridge: Connecting Communities Beyond Four Wheels
Bruce Campbell, Parsons Corporation; Nicole Flippance, Bridging North America; Heather Grondin* and Karey Thatcher, Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority; Lori Newton, Bike Windsor Essex

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project includes construction of a 2.5 kilometre bridge, two state-of-the-art ports of entry and a Michigan Interchange connection. It is one of the largest international infrastructure projects underway along the Canada-US border. Valued at $5.7 billion (CAD), it will deliver much-needed transportation improvements for travelers between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan, and broader regional socioeconomic opportunities.

While the 0.5-mile bridge river crossing will be the most visible portion of the project, the broader scope of this bi-national, complex P3 megaproject is unique for its focus on community and attention to sustainability and human experience.  Commitments to enhancing public space, connectivity, and mobility for all roadway users and skillful integration of large-scale infrastructure components within the local streetscape network differentiate it from similar transportation projects.

This session will address:

  • Community-driven and collaborative approaches taken to deliver this major infrastructure project between two nations, six levels of government, and two economically and socially diverse communities
  • Project team, community, and government partnerships to create meaningful, sustainable benefits for adjacent neighborhoods and lessen the burden of construction
  • Best practices and engagement principles implemented throughout the project life cycle.

The following case studies will show a 360-view of how the owner, constructor and communities worked together to identify and achieve shared ownership of outcomes:

  • Incorporation of an International Multi-use Path: During the procurement phase, the Owner amended the bridge’s design scope to include a cross-border multi-use path following a groundswell of community requests. The project and local governments are now investing in complementary initiatives to develop and connect regional active transportation networks. 
  • Community Benefits Plan Development: A three-year consultation and engagement process occurred over the procurement and design phases to incorporate local community priorities into the project’s robust Community Benefits Plan. This provides tailored workforce opportunities and neighbourhood infrastructure benefits for the region, above and beyond the project’s physical infrastructure.
  • Local Road Improvements: In recognition of the host communities’ new role as a gateway community and in response to public consultation, accessibility enhancements were incorporated into the project scope through local road improvements to be undertaken in Canada and the US adjacent to the project footprint. These include road reconstruction, intersection improvements, cycling facilities, and several pedestrian bridge crossings over Interstate-75.

In addition to proactive and responsive stakeholder and community relations, the integration of access and mobility enhancements and overall community benefits initiatives were leveraged within project plans and design outcomes to further advance the project’s overall target Envision award level.

Visit to learn more about this once-in-a-generation project.


Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI): Improving Our Profession, Improving Our World
Moderator: Yvette Pearson, University of Texas at Dallas
Speakers: Quincy Alexander, Army Engineer Research & Development Center; Carol Martsolf, Urban Engineers; Frederick Paige, Virginia Tech - Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

The terms justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion (JEDI) are often treated as buzzwords that amount to little more than counting people and perhaps a mandatory annual training. The reality is that JEDI (or the absence of JEDI) impacts every facet of the organization. When JEDI is a priority, the benefits are vast; it results in improvements in the quality and innovation of engineering design and problem solving, organizational culture and climate, and the fiscal bottom line. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all JEDI rule book for organizations, there are best practices that can be adopted or adapted to improve outcomes for all stakeholders, including society as a whole. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), through its board-level body MOSAIC (Members of Society Advancing an Inclusive Culture), has curated a set of resources called the Best Practices Resource Guide (BPRG). This session will highlight actionable strategies from the BPRG on areas such as communications, partnerships, assessment, accountability, leadership, and events.

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: define justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI); recognize the impacts of JEDI (or the lack thereof) on organizational and societal outcomes; and create and implement action plans toward engaging diverse teams in just, equitable, and inclusive engineering education and practice.


Kowis Street Improvements: The First Houston / Harris County Area Project to Pursue Envision Verification
Moderator: Niki Foster, KCI
Speakers: Michael Bloom*, R.G. Miller Engineers, Inc.; Milton Rahman, Harris County Precinct (invited); Amanda Marshall, Harris County Engineering Department; Evan Shields, Cobb Fendley & Associates; Conner Stokes, Hollaway Environmental & Communications

This facilitated panel discussion addresses the process of planning, designing, and constructing the first project in the Houston / Harris County region to pursue Envision verification. The proposed project includes reconstructing Kowis Street from the Halls Bayou Hike-Bike Trail to James Driver Park so that pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers using the corridor and the adjacent property owners and tenants will realize improved social, environmental, and economic benefits.

Published by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, Envision® is an objective framework that advances sustainable approaches for planning, designing, constructing, and operating public infrastructure projects. The framework helps guide project decision-making to foster an enhanced quality of life for project stakeholders, effective leadership, better resource allocation, conservation and restoration of natural resources, reduced air emissions, and improved resilience.

The panel discussion will highlight the project’s extensive stakeholder mapping process and stakeholder engagement process and how it was modified to deal with the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Discuss research into the history of the largely Hispanic community. 
  • Present information on the equity issues discovered during the work. 
  • Outline skills gap analysis conducted to help select training programs. 
  • Discuss traffic calming and public health and safety enhancements. 
  • Present information regarding the establishment of a Resilience Hub to address flooding risks.
  • Discuss key policy decisions related to equity, procurement, safety, and traffic controls that were made by all project participants and various Harris County Departments. 
  • Outline original sustainability plan, which targeted specific Envision credits.
  • Compare and contrast the original sustainability plan and how the verification process occurred.
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