Tbnewswatch Local News
Saturday July 4 2015
3:02 PM EDT
2014-05-07 at 15:55

Rail-only bridge?

By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- Mayor Keith Hobbs is dismayed that it doesn’t appear CN Rail wants any part of repairing the James Street Swing Bridge and reopening it to vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Hobbs said there’s no indication of cost estimates to make the necessary repairs or upgrades, according to a report the railway commissioned in the wake of a fire last October that set the wooden portion of the century-old bridge ablaze.

The span reopened to rail traffic within days.

“I got the impression they’re not interested in that,” Hobbs said on Wednesday, two days before city officials and their legal representation are expected to meet with CN officials and their legal team.

Hobbs did say CN has informed the city and Fort William First Nation, which is served by the bridge, that the rail span and the vehicle span are two separate structures.

He added the city is looking at an agreement signed in 1906 between the City of Fort William, Thunder Bay’s predecessor, and the Grand Trunk Railroad, to see what obligations the railroad might have to live up to in 2014.

Hobbs said the original agreement called for a $50,000 payment to the railroad by Fort William, but that payment has long since stopped.

“We’ve had our lawyers working on it for three months. We’ve got some very good lawyers in Toronto that have dealt with railway companies and bridges,” Hobbs said.

“We’re maintaining that that agreement is still in place and CN should be honouring it.
The mayor said he hopes the situation doesn’t land in court, but isn’t afraid to go that route if necessary.

“We’re going to have further meetings with CN. We’re meeting this Friday with Fort William First Nation and our engineer and our lawyer and looking at next steps. But I would like to see CN come to the party, do their job and fix the bridge up,” Hobbs said.

“That’s where we’re going to go first.”

The bridge is one of two local entrance and exit points to Fort William First Nation, the shortest route between the two communities.

Should an emergency occur, closing Highway 61 down for any period of time, residents on the reserve and beyond would face a lengthy detour.

This could spell trouble for anyone facing a medical emergency.

“We’re down to one access and egress to Fort William First Nation, now. That bridge needs to be opened so we have that emergency route, or we have two routes in case of an emergency.”

The mayor said the alternative could well be finding the funds to build a new span across the Kaministiquia River.

That would be a costly venture, though one Hobbs discussed with Fort William First Nations Chief Georjann Morriseau’s predecessor Peter Collins a couple of years ago.

“That’s probably one of the options, however that’s going to take a lot of dollars, probably $80 million to $100 million. That’s something that the feds definitely would have to come to the (table) in a huge way. That is option B. Option A for us is to get that bridge repaired and working.”

Morriseau said Tuesday the CN 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.”


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Dohboycc says:
In regards to Tomthepro, I meant the city and wasn't insulting FWFN. My point was if the city wasn't keeping up their end of the contract why should CN keep up on theirs of having to keep the bridge operational for public too.
5/9/2014 9:04:07 AM
j_northey says:
Regardless of the agreement, it is well past time for a real traffic and pedestrian bridge to be built. If it was to an area where wealthy people lived it would've been built ages ago for 'safety' due to the need to have more than one entrance/exit. Since it is to a First Nations area old agreements are ignored, safety ignored, and no one will chase down the feds/province for matching funds to build a decent route in.
5/9/2014 8:04:10 AM
RelaxinginMurillo says:
Similar to MLL23's "out of the box" idea..
Put a spur line on each side of the bridge that terminates on a drive-on drive-off ramps and have a rail licensed contractor operate a shuttle system across it. There's already (was..) size and weight restrictions, and if you dont like the shuttle fee or longer wait, take Hwy61.
Heck, it would even be somewhat of a novelty tourist attraction, driving your car "onto" a train car for the short trip..
5/9/2014 6:55:49 AM
Shane Caker says:
Build/fix the bridge or build an overpass at the hwy 61 entrance. It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed at the hwy 61 access.
5/8/2014 11:24:08 PM
mystified says:
And it would be only a matter of time before someone gets killed or injured on the bridge and someone files a lawsuit against CN. If someone were to get killed or injured on the bridge the whine about the condition, responsibility would be deafening.
5/9/2014 1:48:55 PM
canadaboy2000 says:
Notice how nothing is every said anymore about the criminal investigation of how the fire started.
I guess its going to be up to us suckers.. I mean taxpayers to fund a $100M new bridge, when another access bridge is already not too far away. Yes, it sucks that there isn't direct access- but the taxpayers cant continue to shovel endless amounts of money at things like this.

They'll probably cancel the events center now, to pay for a replacement bridge to knowhere.
5/8/2014 11:03:41 PM
tiredofit says:
Here's a quote from a recent article in Forbes Magazine:

To make things a bit more interesting, Bill Gates is essentially the primary shareholder of CN Rail. According to FactSet, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the 9th largest insider and they hold 17,126,874 shares of CNI. That represents an ownership of 2% and it takes up 4% of their portfolio. The largest shareholder of CNI is Cascade Investment and with 86,324,874 shares (worth about $4.5 billion) they hold 10% ownership of the stock. That holding is the largest holding at Cascade Investments and it represents 22% of their portfolio. As Cascade is controlled by Bill Gates, then Bill Gates is essentially the largest shareholder of CNI.

Oddly enough, although CNI is a publicly traded company, I’ll note that MP Bryan Hayes seems to view CNI as a private company. I find it odd that a Member of Parliament views a public company as a private company.

Google it.. sad but true. Harper & Gates meet last year to discuss
5/8/2014 7:22:48 PM
nopatience4stupidity says:
The opinion I state in my earlier comment is on the breaking of an agreement and resultant aftermath. If one party defaults, then the other party has no contractual obligation to continue with the agreement. This issue/agreement happens to be over a bridge and access - that I believe we can agree upon. The article references FWFN Chief Georjann Morriseau: "Morriseau said Tuesday the CN report is being reviewed, along with the original 1906 agreement that guaranteed the use of the bridge in perpetuity."

While I wish I had a copy of the agreement, I do not but it appears that Chief Morriseau does. When the bridge first burnt I posted suggesting TBNewswatch to do some investigative reporting, locate the original agreement and report on it so that we could all be more informed.
5/8/2014 4:18:38 PM
papercut says:
Build a new bridge already!

Feds, Province, and City all can chip in.

5/8/2014 1:54:34 PM
keiths31 says:
If a new one is to be built, feds, province, city AND the band should ante up.
5/9/2014 8:49:59 AM
jonthunder says:
If this event, the fire and damage, mean the railway no longer is obligated to provide access for vehicles due to safety reasons, why would the railway ever want to fix the bridge? It would seem financially prudent for the railway to leave the vehicle aspect of the bridge unsafe and out of order.
5/8/2014 1:54:06 PM
Dohboycc says:
So once Ft William catches up on their 50,000$ payments that have long stopped I feel that CN will need to honor their part of the contract to maintain personal traffic.
5/8/2014 1:51:26 PM
tomthepro says:
I think the agreement that this article is referring to is the city of fort william. Not the First Nation that your comment intended to insult.
5/8/2014 2:49:00 PM
MLL23 says:
The center lane is safe for fully loaded rail cars, it is safe for passenger vehicles. Establish a road bed level with the tracks, set up traffic lights allowing alternating one way traffic across the bridge which is stopped both ways when a train or emergency vehicle approaches. Create a pedestrian and bicycle lane on both sides of the rail structure.
5/8/2014 11:46:40 AM
Tannoy says:
pave it in solid gold and have sprinklers of champagne every 15 feet as well
5/8/2014 1:36:32 PM
Thundereye says:
Now that's funny!! Thanks for making me smile!!
5/8/2014 8:29:13 PM
tomthepro says:
It really is time for a new bridge. Both the province feds, city and band should come to the table. With the upper levels of government paying the most. This isn't just access for the reserve, but for residents on Mountain Road, Chippewa Park, The mills, businesses, and non profits. I can guarantee you that business in westfort is hurting because of this. The hwy 61 route is really out of the way
5/8/2014 11:07:33 AM
BlueJay12 says:
If the FWFN gas bars are complaining so much about all their lost revenues, how about throw some money into building their own bridge with all of their money that they are generating from their massive Solar Farm?

Duncan for Mayor!!!
5/8/2014 11:00:54 AM
moonpie says:
Bridge v1 is old and outdated and updates are no longer available. Time for Bridge v2.0
5/8/2014 10:59:34 AM
Dockboy says:
Maybe they should concentrate on the finding the cuiprit who set the fire in the first place. You might start with, "who would benefit if the bridge was out of order."
5/8/2014 10:37:27 AM
back-in-the-bay says:
you sure shouldn't have to a legal genius to understand the context and concept of what "in perpetuity" means in the contractual agreement. Even Hobbs should be able to grasp that evidently NO WHERE does the agreement extend to "repair" or "rebuild" to effect actual "perpetuity". The legalese in this case simply refers to the notion that as long as a structure is in place that is suitable and safe for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, CN will allow for that use. Both Thunder Bay and FWFN don't seem to acknowledge the liability of this structure's use. If ANYTHING happens to the public, only CN will be named. CN business is that of RAIL, and this bridge remains safe for RAIL. CN has no obligation to BUILD, REPAIR or PROVIDE crossing for any other purpose. In the end, and after all that hard entitled tax money is wasted on lawyers, that will be the outcome. It won't be surprising if all this is simply posturing for elections and commitments from higher level funding. Transparent!
5/8/2014 9:50:19 AM
The Badger Mountain Hermit says:
Wasn't the original deal to last 100 years, and that has since passed, so who needs a lawyer to argue that? Our notorious "Thunder Bay Factor" again?
5/8/2014 9:47:54 AM
Tannoy says:
That agreement was over a hundred years ago with a company that no longer exists. I get that CN assumed ownership of the agreement when they took ownership of that company but seriously, good luck fighting that. There are lots of places around here with only one road and they get by just fine. FWFN has a highway access point, get used to it or build your own bridge.
5/8/2014 8:39:23 AM
Nooaloolulu says:
Let's see, I have not read the agreement, I have no facts, I will quote and paraphrase others who have no clue and are winging it, then I will form a cut and dried opinion on how it is. I see irony here in your user name no patience.
5/8/2014 8:06:35 AM
Cletus Van Damme says:
Just face reality; Billy has ended support for this old platform, and it's time to upgrade.
5/7/2014 7:52:56 PM
nooaloolulu says:
give us some examples of CN breaking contracts time after time and of Ottawa doing nothing. with who and when.
5/7/2014 6:59:55 PM
nopatience4stupidity says:
I believe that people are losing focus and that it should singularly be concentrated on the terms of the agreement. Not having seen the agreement I’ll paraphrase what the common perception seems to be - that CN was granted access in exchange for maintaining the bridge in perpetuity. No maintenance, remove the access. Seems fairly cut and dried to me.
5/7/2014 6:46:05 PM
hadenough says:
Except that CN never signed the agreement. It was signed by the Grand Trunk which defaulted on Government loans, went bankrupt and then was eventually taken over by CN.

5/7/2014 10:11:27 PM
DougMyers says:
By taking over that railway and thus the bridge, they assumed the contractual obligation.

No different than an obligation to allow a neighbour access to his property through yours and having that in the deed. Then selling the property to someone else. They then assume that obligation.

Simple law here.
5/8/2014 10:32:49 AM
j_northey says:
Well, when the blockade comes I hope CN shareholders remember the short sighted decision not to reopen the bridge. I'm sure having the bridge (and maybe other areas) closed down for stretches would cost far more.
5/7/2014 6:46:00 PM
moi says:

CN and it's shareholders owe you,me,the city and the chief absolutely...nothing.
It's their bridge,they can choose to do as they like, and there's not a darn thing anyone can do.
5/8/2014 9:09:00 AM
Papercut says:
I find it hard to imagine a new bridge would cost $100million.

5/7/2014 6:34:49 PM
ring of fire dude says:
I find it hard to imagine that the Event Center is going to cost 100 million too .
5/7/2014 10:16:45 PM
tiredofit says:
Apparently construction in Thunder Bay is very expensive... seems everything cost's a 100 million these days!!
5/8/2014 7:13:12 PM
Ehmmy says:
Indeed, the Nipigon River cable stay bridge is estimated at $106 million.
5/8/2014 7:29:22 PM
CM Punk says:
Hobbs will have his team of Toronto lawyers go against Bill gates team of lawyers and their lawyers will call their lawyers.
Lots of legal costs here and nothing will get solved. Taxpayers will bare the brunt of this and its funny to see when a day earlier the city is trying to save monies by trimming top level jobs. LOL.
5/7/2014 6:30:18 PM
tiredofit says:
I see a blockade in CN's future!
5/7/2014 6:26:26 PM
reese says:
Shortage of cars for grain and lumber could grt worse if they push the wrong buttons
Iwould not drive over it for years definitly not with i fire truck
5/7/2014 6:01:51 PM
Kam River says:
For 100 years their was only one bridge across the Kam and that was ok.
The Business on the Thunder Bay the south side of the Kam River do not appear have a problem using highway 61. Mayor Hobbs, Is too quick to spend city of Thunder Bay Tax payers money.
He is talking Thunder pay tax payers paying 50% of the cost and The Thunder Bay tax payers pay the other 50% though there income and GST and other Federal taxes. Which leaves 0% for Fort William 1st Nation to contribute.
5/7/2014 6:00:30 PM
trips says:
I must wonder if this issue has to do with the over budget of this cities legal department...no transparency in the legal dept.
5/7/2014 5:58:09 PM
sudbury yahoo says:
If there's one thing CN is really good at (and it's not moving grain), it's breaking contracts. They think nobody's going to take them to task and drag them into a courtroom. They do it time after time and Ottawa does nothing to keep these guys in check.
5/7/2014 5:22:15 PM
Zelig says:
'Ottawa' IS these guys.
5/8/2014 8:12:08 AM
tsb says:
No, CN is a private company "headquartered" in Montreal but run out of Chicago.
5/8/2014 7:28:06 PM
jonthunder says:
Dealing with the minute detail of current and on-going legal matters in the media is likely not a good path for the city. With very limited information, I suspect the railway has determined a very precise legal strategy re: different types of bridge purposes/uses and will at a minimum force other payers to fess up with their $$$ for a resolution. Is a new bridge really worth the cost; and if so for who?
5/7/2014 5:12:28 PM
sprintfan says:
The Railways in this country march to the beat of their own drum,not the laws of the land! Get the court documents ready, its the only way you will get any resolution! CN clearly has no intentions of honoring the agreement of 1908!
5/7/2014 4:33:25 PM
enos012 says:
I made the mistake yesterday thinking the Candian Government still owned this but seeing that Bill Gates is the majority share holder maybe even can start tweeting him to do something...
5/7/2014 4:10:04 PM
tsb says:
CN was privatized in 1995. CP was privatized in the late 1800s. The only rail line the federal government owns is Via Rail, and it's probably going to kill that soon.
5/8/2014 7:27:11 PM
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