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A long term solution to connect Thunder Bay and the Fort William First Nation won't happen without support from other levels of government, says the city's mayor.
Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs and Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau are planning to meet to discuss potential solutions to provide a vehicular connection to the two communities with the James Street swing bridge out of commission until the new year.
A new bridge would be an ideal solution to Hobbs, but he acknowledged the cost of the project would mean assistance would be required.
“It’s probably looking at $80 million at least so that’s way out of Thunder Bay’s realm and it’s probably way out of the Fort William First Nation’s realm as well,” Hobbs said.
The two were scheduled to meet last week but had to postpone due to inclement weather.
Nevertheless, Hobbs insisted the issue is a priority, and that he has a potential solution.
“The (Ministry of Transportation) apparently has Bailey bridges available so I want to explore that and see if we can get something temporary at the very least and then look at the long-term fix,” Hobbs said.
A Bailey bridge is a temporary and portable truss structure that was developed in the Second World War. They can be quickly and relatively easy to assemble and can support vehicular traffic.
While the idea of a Bailey bridge would be a start, it would not be a long-term fix.
The idea of a new bridge is something that Hobbs had discussed early in his mayoral term with former Fort William First Nation chief Peter Collins.
Vehicular access to the First Nation has been limited to Chippewa Road from Highway 61 after the James Street point of entry was closed by the bridge fire on Oct. 29.
Initially there were concerns about about what the detour would mean for emergency services accessing the community.
Superior North EMS said earlier this month they would not set up a temporary base in the community in wake of response times increasing by five to six minutes.
Hobbs has not heard any specific issues as a result of the slightly longer emergency service response times, but said he is concerned about potential economic impacts.
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