Gordie Howe bridge community benefits applications are open, looking for ideas

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is now taking applications for their 2020 Community Benefits Plan and a Windsor-based group is encouraging people to come up with ideas for Sandwich Towne.

Project funding will vary from $1,000 up to $25,000 for events, programs and infrastructure improvements. The first round of the project encompassed approximately $10 million going toward economic impacts, as well as environmental and other community initiatives.

"There was still some funds left over and so they decided to put out applications for smaller projects," said Sarah Morris, coordinator for the Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition, a volunteer group which looks to maximize community benefits from major development and infrastructure projects in the region.

So far, Morris said the group has been hearing about the need for neighbourhood revitalization projects, environmental projects, as well as projects that honour the history, art and people of Sandwich.

"We've been hearing about things around environmental mitigation, so things around pollution studies around pollution." said Morris. "We've also been hearing really cool art ideas too."

The bridge authority-provided community benefits funding will run out in five years, so the coalition is also working toward a legacy fund, which would come from a percentage of the tolls.

The Gordie Howe bridge has been a good listening partner. - Sarah Morris, Coordinator, Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition

"What we're looking for as a community and as a coalition is for these benefits to last as long as the bridge is in our community," said Morris.

That way, future generations would still be able to benefit from the bridge — and mitigate any negative effects that might come down the road.

"This has been something that was in our 2017 report originally," said Morris. 

The request will need to go through the Ministry of Infrastructure. Toll prives haven't been set for the bridge yet.

Morris said the Gordie Howe bridge has been a great community partner and would love to see the process continue with the Ambassador Bridge and any further infrastructure projects.

"Community benefits are becoming standard throughout North America and the U.K., and we would like to see that success continue in Windsor," she said.

Applications will be accepted until Jan. 31, 2020. Morris says community groups or individual organizations will have to work with charities, because only charities can apply for the benefits.