A vast and growing amount of trade flows between the US and Canada over an 85-year-old bridge constrained by its location between downtown Detroit and downtown Windsor. The route is projected to carry 28% of Canada’s trade with the US — more than the total trade between Japan and the US.
To overcome this bottleneck, the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, formerly known as the Windsor-Essex Parkway, will cross the border downstream from the current bridge. Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, for whom the parkway was renamed, was a Member of Parliament for an unprecedented 13 consecutive terms, and also served on the International Joint Commission, which deals with water and air issues concerning the US-Canada border.
Avoiding the downtown areas, the new parkway will link Highway 401 to the site of a proposed new bridge across the Detroit River.
Because of the project’s proximity to residential neighborhoods, there was unprecedented community involvement during the Environmental Assessment. To complete this ambitious project, a huge amount of design had to be done quickly, with high quality, and in a way that minimized construction costs.
The parkway project was procured as public-private partnership (P3) by the Ontario government and was awarded to the Windsor Essex Mobility Group (WEMG), which is responsible for financing, designing, constructing and maintaining the road for 30 years.
HMM, a joint venture of Mott MacDonald and Hatch, served as the prime designer for WEMG during the tender period and after project award. Project managers for the joint venture had overall responsibility for the design effort, managing a broad multidisciplinary team of about 130 engineers and technical staff drawn from 19 offices of Hatch and Mott MacDonald, and from specialist subconsultants.
To maintain community connections, most of the parkway is depressed below grade. The depressed parkway runs under 11 cut-and-cover tunnels that range from 394 to 787 feet (120 to 240 meters) in length. Key elements of the project include the following:
- The parkway itself
- An adjacent at-grade service road that replaces existing Highway 3
- 12 bridges
- 11 cut-and-cover tunnels
- Noise mitigation measures
- 5 pump stations that drain the highway into adjacent stormwater management ponds and wetlands
- Extensive protection measures for species at risk
- An advanced traffic management system.
Our design efforts included coordination of all components of the project, and detailed design of significant portions of the roadway works, as well as the bridges, tunnels, culverts, and pump stations. The joint venture's engineers introduced a number of innovative design solutions:
- NU-type prestressed concrete girders (approved for use in Ontario for the first time)
- Sacrificial layer of concrete on structures for fireproofing (in lieu of a spray-on fireproofing)
- Development of a new fire hydrant that can be incorporated into the median jersey barrier of the parkway
Completed in 2015, the Herb Gray Parkway separates local and international traffic, diverts stop-and-go international traffic away from residential areas, and ensures the safe and efficient movement of people and goods between Canada and the United States.
Construction on the parkway started in 2011, and generated approximately 12,000 jobs by creating business opportunities for local and regional companies, attracting new investment, and supporting existing industry.
The roofs of the tunnels are landscaped, and together with adjacent land within the right-of-way, provide 300 acres (121 hectares) of green space and 12 miles (20 kilometers) of recreational trails. The project has been described as a “park with a highway running through it.”
By using innovative design concepts on the parkway, we were able to cut an estimated $100 million from the cost of the project.