Tbnewswatch Local News
Saturday July 4 2015
6:30 PM EDT
2014-05-06 at 15:17

Looking for answers

The James Street Swing Bridge remains closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic following a fire on Oct. 29, 2013.
Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
The James Street Swing Bridge remains closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic following a fire on Oct. 29, 2013.
By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION, Ont.– The chief of the Fort William First Nation says her community needs long-term answers in the wake of a new report regarding the James Street Swing Bridge.

CN Rail, which owns the bridge, issued an engineering report to both the City of Thunder Bay and the First Nation in the past couple of weeks stating the connection between the two communities should remain indefinitely closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau says the report is being reviewed, along with the original 1906 agreement that guaranteed the use of the bridge in perpetuity.

“We have to sit down and really go over a better plan,” Morriseau said on Tuesday. “The bridge not being open just isn’t acceptable. We really need to figure out how we can get it open and if we can open it.”

The bridge has been closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic since a fire on Oct. 29 of last year resulted in substantial damage. It was reopened to rail traffic a few days following the incident.

The bridge was built in 1908 by the Grand Trunk Railway, which received money from the city in exchange for its use. It was then acquired by CN Rail.

Morriseau and her team are scheduled to meet with Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs and representatives from CN Rail in the next week to discuss the report. She says she has some specific questions she wants answered.

In the short-term, the chief is stressing the need for additional safety measures where Chippewa Road connects with Highway 61.

She is advocating for traffic control measures such as lights at the intersection, reduced speed limits and improved road maintenance. Morriseau has been in communication with the Ministry of Transportation in pursuit of those changes.

“It’s a dangerous area,” Morriseau said.

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mystified says:
Cn should fix the bridge and charge a toll to use it to pay for the repairs.
5/7/2014 9:50:06 PM
wilbar says:
I think you will find that the "lifetime" usage came in when it was part of highway 61 going to the border -- now that there is a new bridge built that aspect will become mute and not hold up in court -- also it is privately owned by CN -- have you even dealt with a railway company -- if they go to court, who is paying -- City of Thunder Bay stay out of it as it does not effect the running of the city -- we have enough legal messes to clean up before we get into this what I suspect losing cause -- the suggestion of upgrading the intersection on highway 61 makes more sense.
5/7/2014 9:38:28 AM
Lykarock says:
I think I would vote to put the 22 million from the Renew Thunder Bay fund into the bridge before the Event Center. I think it would generate a lot more revenue and long term economic benefits. I also think Resolute and other large companies that use the area on FWFN land should kick in privately too. The grain elevators make a good buck out there too.
5/7/2014 8:50:26 AM
snotzky says:
I like to know if the FWFN people are committed in putting in their share for the bridge repairs? It directly affects them more than it does us city folks economically. Why would I care if I only have to drive 6 more minutes to get to Chippewa,via highway 61b, (which would be the only reason I'd go out there anyways). Pony up FWFN people. Show CN your willing to pay too.
5/7/2014 8:33:24 AM
alexa says:
Gotta agree with "Outside looking in", sure chief Morriseau says the original 1906 agreement guaranteed the use of the bridge in perpetuity, but what were the specifics of the guaranteed use?? I a sure it did not say anything about maintaining the road portion for "cars"...........
5/7/2014 8:21:19 AM
Eastender says:
Of course CN engineers are going to say the bridge is structurally unsound for vehicular traffic! Guess who pays them? CN does not want to pay to build and maintain a roadway. They have played their hand and now its our turn. That being to take them to court and try to enforce the original agreement. This might also involve an impartial assessment by an engineering consulting firm to confirm the so called engineering assessment by CN Rail. Considering the cost of going to court CN may want to play another card, perhaps one more favorable to us.
5/7/2014 7:51:25 AM
The Beaver..... says:
give me one good reason why it is important (other then to buy Gas and Zigs)to have that bridge open to Vehicle traffic. There is adequate access to the other side and all this constant complaining that if not reopening the Bridge is" dangerous" is like a smoke screen. Norm Gale had the courage to stand up and made his point clear. The never ending story about safety and response time is just a no brainer.The City is building a Fire hall between two Railway crossings. That says it all
5/7/2014 7:50:34 AM
bricksofwisdom says:
Oh come on people three groups use that bridge to make money c.n. makes a fortune off of it natives make some cash from the citizens of t.bay and we save some by shopping there seems pretty simple split three ways and everyone pays there share
5/7/2014 7:30:52 AM
jimbob100 says:
5/7/2014 7:06:39 AM
thecity says:
So, by this mode of thought, if one's family purchased a home at the turn of the last century, then it should be taken from them now because obviously they had no concept of the future? get real. fix the bridge.
5/7/2014 6:53:25 AM
j_northey says:
No question the bridge has needed to be replaced for years - I was always nervous using it myself. The feds have been dumping cash into projects for the past few years, the province certainly seems desperate to dump cash too so why haven't our local MP and MPP's fought for some of that to go to building a new bridge?

As to the highway - it is a mess across town. How can you call it a highway when there are lights all over the place? We desperately need those lights to go away and have over/under passes for all intersections in town. Ideally we'd have a fully divided highway from the US border all the way down to Toronto but that isn't happening given our local MPP takes pride in taking 20 years to get one stretch done.
5/6/2014 11:32:46 PM
Jeannied says:
There are any number of reasons the highway could be closed for any length of time, as it has been at times in the past. In that case there would be no direct way to access everyone living or working south of the jam for many kilometres and a lot of wasted time in case of emergency. This includes people living both on and off reserve all the way down to neebing. We need secondary access and as a resident down here I thank chief morrisseau for campaigning for a new bridge so emergency can access everyone, not just those living on her reserve.
5/6/2014 10:18:27 PM
Watchful says:
What makes anyone think that the railway owes this bridge to the people. That is plain arrogance on the part of the people. There is access to the reservation, people just need to learn how to drive. I have said it many times, set up lights and then it will run smoothly. Cost wise much cheaper than any bridge Sir Hobbs May want to build
5/6/2014 10:11:14 PM
hardrawkin says:
If it isn't safe for pedestrians I am amazed that it can handle fully loaded freight trains.
Best solution is probably to build a better road and safer intersection at the Chippewa Road junction.
5/6/2014 9:04:53 PM
Itmatters says:
My family and I are quite content in using the Hwy61 access to FWFN. We are not interested in having to pay more taxes for a bridge that we only need to use occasionally. If the FWFN Community needs the bridge they should pay for it. I do not think I am alone in my opinion.
5/6/2014 9:00:49 PM
BetterThunderBay says:
Bare minimum, pedestrian access must be restored soon. That would at least allow safe passage for people. It would also come at a significantly lower cost while everything else can be sorted out.
5/6/2014 8:49:47 PM
cm punk says:
Hobbs will meet with CN and they will laugh him out of the room. He is small potatoes as far as they are concerned.
He will return and make an announcement that the city will build its own bridge at taxpayers expense.
5/6/2014 7:56:32 PM
john@otb says:
There have been issues with traffic heading in and out of Thunder Bay using Highway 61, long before the CN Bridge was taken out of the picture. The problem has only intensified with the increased traffic. There are many drivers heading into town who drive under the speed limit. There are many intersections to Highway 61, between the Neebing Road House and the Kaminisiqua where there have been quite a few instances where we've been forced to slam on our breaks in order to not rear end someone who has pulled onto the highway with complete disregard for oncoming traffic and the speed with most most are travelling (90 to 100 km/hour in most cases). Such drivers are risking life and limb for themselves and others with such behaviour. As for the CN bridge, it's time for a new bridge. CN has been a thorn on the city's side for decades, with their tracks cutting the city in half, and their refusal to merge their lines with CP in order to increase EMS response times and open up lands.
5/6/2014 7:55:10 PM
enos012 says:
Reason number 1 the bridge is not being fixed so fast. CN is goverment owned. Business has dropped dramaticly out there making the government a ton on money in the process.
5/6/2014 6:05:14 PM
outside looking in says:
I would be interested to see the original agreement. Cars or carriges mentioned?
5/6/2014 5:46:52 PM
zachm1 says:
By the looks of the pic in the news article, all the timbers spanning the length of the bridge on both sides have been replaced. Looks like new lumber to me. So what is the problem then. Is this just another 99% complete job on CN's part?
5/6/2014 4:31:36 PM
orig junkyarddog says:
Well that answers a lot of questions that could have been answered long before this. All concerned must seek so another solution. And the cost of any solution should not be born by our city alone; any new plan for an alternative bridge must be a shared cost 50 -50 deal. And I'm not agreed at this time we should, there is hwy 61 turnoff, and at this time that’s enough. Plus No one has been charged or any investigation has gotten anywhere as to who's responsible for the arson. So until we have assurances that sabotage won't happen again why do anything.
Doug Powell
5/6/2014 4:11:50 PM
keiths31 says:
Imagine if the Black Bay bridge and Cumberland bridge were not usable and the only way out of Current River was the highway at Hodder (before the clover leaf). That would be a pretty dangerous scenario. That's why this bridge needs to be reopened/rebuilt.
5/6/2014 8:57:49 PM
keiths31 says:
This bridge needs to be fixed, if not replaced. CN will do everything in their power to not have to rebuild/fix the bridge. This bridge is a vital link for our communities. CP bowed to pressure from the city and rebuilt the Brown Street pedestrian bridge, so there has been precedence set. Though the cost of repairing/replacing a vehicular bridge is quite a bit more, but it still shouldn't be an excuse to get out of your responsibility.

As much as I think it is CNs responsibility, I don't see this bridge being fixed or a new one being built by anyone except for our communities.

5/6/2014 4:06:30 PM
Sandwiches1123 says:
The stretch of road on Highway 61 from Walsh to Chippewa road has become a "dangerous area", not just that intersection. The reason? It is a highway featuring a speed limit of 90km/hr but the majority of traffic heading to Chippewa Road travel closer to 70km/hr on a regular basis.

This causes "line jumping" at Walsh and Broadway where people will change to the right (outside) lane in order to pass a bunch of people at a the light only to merge back into the left (interior) lane with no regard to the rest of traffic.

Reducing the speed limit would still result in this dangerous practice. Drivers must travel near or close to the posted speed limit. Slow driving is a hazard too.

Furthermore, the folks turning from Chippewa Road and head North towards Broadway are inconsiderate of through traffic. Nothing like a Ford 250 pulling on to the highway causing a group of vehicles going 90 having to slam on the brakes.
5/6/2014 3:41:45 PM
Neebing1414 says:
couldn't agree more.. if you can't drive the speed limit get off the highway.. all the scared drivers going 70 at best are more a concern then the people going 100+

if she wants to make the intersection safer, teach all the stupid drivers how to merge and drive the highway properly
5/6/2014 6:19:10 PM
john says:
Hear, Hear!

TBay residents need to realize the merge lane is there to accelerate to highway speeds and blend smoothly into traffic and its NOT INTENDED TO COME TO A COMPLETE STOP!
5/7/2014 8:33:03 AM
Eastender says:
This stretch of road needs reduced speed limits. Maximum 80 kph, with traffic lights at Chippewa road. Too many intersections on this stretch all the way to the airport from Neebing Roadhouse.
No, maybe its not a popular idea, but will you sacrifice safety for two minutes of your time?
5/7/2014 7:39:41 AM
fairlane says:
Here's the problem we have with these "lifetime" or perpetuity agreements: They're made a time where they have no concept of the future.

How many cars were going back and forth over the bridge in 1906? I'm guessing not a lot. There probably wasn't gas being sold on the other side either.

We've all grandfathered ourselves into using this bridge thinking it's our right to have it forever under the full responsibility of CN. We use it a lot more today than from when it was originally built. BOTH sides need to come to the table with the solution, and BOTH sides need to look at helping with footing the bill.

5/6/2014 3:32:40 PM
progress now says:
Interesting point:

"Here's the problem we have with these "lifetime" or perpetuity agreements: They're made a time where they have no concept of the future. "

I couldn't agree with you more.

Hence what in the world are we doing leasing the waterfront railroad station for 99 years...

Thats longer than the railroad used it.

5/6/2014 4:11:49 PM
sickandtired says:
I want to know how the investigation is coming along to charge the person(s) responsible for damaging the bridge in the first place! This part of the story isn't being reported in the media ... Is the investigation closed?
5/6/2014 3:32:33 PM
enos012 says:
This is just a RUMOR but from my understanding they aren't lokking for anyone because it was something electrical on the brdge that started the fire.
5/6/2014 4:06:11 PM
progress now says:
Is it possible a diesel engine somehow sparked the fire? It is a pretty old bridge.

Sound like rebuilding it should be a priority tailor made for senior infrastructure funding. Of course, we have visions oc art galleries in our heads.

Needs before wants....
5/6/2014 4:08:27 PM
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