Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me and our staff to speak with you today about Infrastructure Canada's interim estimates.
I want to start by talking to you about what my department is doing to build and support strong and inclusive communities where everyone has access to the opportunities they need to thrive. You have already introduced my staff members, so I won't do that.
The government has been working closely with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners to deliver on our commitments to make historic investments in infrastructure. As you know, we are investing more than $180 billion in infrastructure projects across the country through the investing in Canada plan. Our plan aims to help grow the economy; support the middle class; build inclusive, accessible communities; and support low-carbon, green, and sustainable investments.
The first phase of our plan was focused on rehabilitation and upgrades to existing infrastructure. It supported the design and planning stages of new large-scale light rail projects in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta.
Through these early investments we made, cities like Halifax are benefiting from the 29 new buses they bought using investments from the public transit infrastructure fund. These new buses are fully accessible, meaning that all residents of Halifax can benefit from them. In Manitoba, communities are benefiting from 23 water projects, such as the construction of a new reservoir and pumphouse in the Rural Municipality of West St. Paul. These projects are keeping Manitoba's waterways clean and the communities healthier and livable.
Over the past two years, my department has approved over 4,100 projects for a combined investment of over $35 billion across all of our programs. Based on the information that our partners have provided us, more than 90% of these projects are under way.
We have also made considerable progress on the new Champlain Bridge project. This new bridge is one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America. It will have a lifespan of 125 years once it is completed. Construction of the new bridge is now more than 65% complete. We continue to work closely with our private partner, Signature on the Saint Lawrence, with the objective of opening the bridge this December.
We have also significantly advanced the Gordie Howe International Bridge project in Windsor-Detroit, which will allow for a vital and more efficient trade corridor for Canada and our biggest trading partner, the United States. To date, we have completed significant preparatory work. The proponent will be announced in June. I'm pleased to say that the construction of the bridge will start this fall.
We are moving forward with the smart cities challenge. It was launched in November of last year and is now under way, with communities across the country submitting their applications. Finalists will be announced this summer.
Overall, we have made great progress on some key immediate infrastructure needs, and now we are focusing on the long-term, transformational aspect of our plan. We are working with our partners on their long-term investments in key priority areas such as public transit; green infrastructure; community, culture, and recreation infrastructure; and rural and northern communities infrastructure.
I am currently working closely with our provincial and territorial partners to reach new bilateral agreements that will see more than $35 billion in federal funding invested across Canada over the next 10 years. I'm pleased to note that, to date, we have signed bilateral agreements with the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and New Brunswick. I have confidence that we will finalize the majority of the remaining agreements in the coming weeks. The budget also provided the updated funding profiles for our programs, which reflect the interim estimates we are discussing today.
I want to be clear: all of the funding in our plan remains available for the projects and programs to which it is allocated. We have committed to more than doubling our infrastructure investments, and that commitment stands. Our programs are designed to flow funds only when claims are submitted to the department by our partners. The budget provides an update on the forecast for when we expect to receive and reimburse those claims.
Thank you so much for having me here today.