October 21, 2015 — Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board members were joined by bridge staff, contractor representatives and local dignitaries today to celebrate the completion of the 16-month-long, $8.9 million (USD) toll plaza project with a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony.
Nearly 100 invitees gathered at the new plaza for the festivities, which opened with the raising of the U.S. and Canadian flags to the accompaniment of local bagpiper Robert Craig. A rousing rendition of both countries’ national anthems by the binational Sweet Adelines choir from the sister cities of Sault Ste. Marie followed. The event continued with a Native American drum song, comments from dignitaries, unveiling of a plaza dedication plaque, and project tours.
SSMBA Chairwoman Helen Gillespie welcomed attendees, noting the project was another outstanding example of the binational partnership in place at the crossing.
“This project is a culmination of seven years of effort in which engineers, architects, contractors, and suppliers from Michigan and Ontario worked together to provide a facility that will improve bridge customer safety and service,” Gillespie said.
Rick Talvitie, the local Federal Bridge Corporation Ltd. (FBCL) board member, provided a Canadian perspective, congratulating the project team for an architecturally stunning, functional, safe, and efficient new administration building and plaza.
Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Chief Administrative Officer Laura Mester drew attention to the innovative aspects of the project and efforts to minimize the impact on bridge customer traffic during the project.
“Innovation and customer service are key to MDOT success,” Mester said. “Team innovation was fundamental throughout this project — especially during the construction phase. It started with an innovative contracting method in which the bridge management team, project engineering firm, and the prospective contractor sat down in a series of meetings to analyze the project design from a functionality and cost perspective before settling on a mutually acceptable price. Bridge staff also used innovative solutions in maintaining uninterrupted traffic flow and effective customer communication, to the point that toll customer surveys showed an improvement in customer satisfaction during the construction.”
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, City Councilor Susan Myers, speaking on behalf of Mayor Christian Provenzano, and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Mayor Tony Bosbous stressed the importance of the project to maintaining the unique sister city relationship that exists between the neighboring cities.
Phil Becker, International Bridge Authority (IBA) general manager, recognized the project team consisting of dozens of architects, engineers and inspectors from Michigan and Ontario firms, as well as the prime contractor, Devere Construction from Alpena, Mich., and dozens of subcontractors and suppliers. He highlighted the efforts of Karl Hansen, IBA bridge engineer, and Peter Petainen, IBA chief financial officer, who served as project manager and assistant project manager, respectively.
“This was a very complicated project with many interrelated aspects, yet it was successfully completed on time and on budget,” Becker said. “Complicating factors included moving toll collection systems and equipment from old booths to new ones while maintaining toll operations and moving security, data, communication, power, and customer service operations from the old building to the new one with uninterrupted service. Devere staff and their subcontractors did an outstanding job addressing our concerns and issues on behalf of our customers.”
The new administration building and seven toll lanes replaced the 53-year-old building and five toll lanes built in 1962 as part of the original bridge project. The new plaza will improve customer safety by providing more southbound traffic merge space between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection booths and bridge toll booths. The project also provides a dedicated customer service area and parking.
At the conclusion of the presentations, SSMBA chairwoman Gillespie and vice chairman Nicholas White unveiled the bronze plaza dedication plaque bearing the inscription:
THE INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE TOLL PLAZA
Dedicated to our Binational Partnership
Promoting Trade, Tourism and Economic Development
through Exceptional Public Service and
On this 21st day of October, 2015
Several officials then joined the SSMBA officers for the official ribbon-cutting, followed by guided tours of the new plaza and building by bridge staff. A public open house, also featuring tours of the project, will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.
The operation and maintenance of the International Bridge is totally self-funded, primarily through bridge tolls. It is not subsidized by any state, provincial or federal government entity. For a complete list of International Bridge tolls, visit the IBA website at www.michigan.gov/IBA.