Tbnewswatch Local News
Sunday July 5 2015
5:05 PM EDT
2014-05-09 at 16:27

Status of the bridge

Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau is confident an agreement between the city and CN will  be honoured to fix the James Street Swing Bridge.
Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau is confident an agreement between the city and CN will be honoured to fix the James Street Swing Bridge.
By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- The city’s mayor says a James Street Bridge fire is being used as an excuse by CN so the company doesn't have to fix it.

While rail traffic re-opened on the bridge within days of an October fire, it remains closed to vehicles.

A recent report from the railway recommends that the bridge, a vital link between Fort William First Nation and Thunder Bay, be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic indefinitely but continue to used for rail as the bridge is actually two separate structures.

But the two communities argue that closing the bridge would contradict a 1906 agreement made between the Grand Trunk Railway and Fort William.

Keith Hobbs and Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau met with lawyers, city engineers and consulting firm True Grit Friday afternoon.

Morriseau called it a strategy session that developed a three-step plan but couldn't say what those steps were until a meeting with CN, originally expected Friday but now in the coming weeks, is held.

"These are things that are very sensitive," she said.

Hobbs said step one of the process is to get the bridge open again. The city has also hired a Toronto law firm that specializes in railway cases. 

"One thing I can tell you is that we're on very solid legal ground," Hobbs said.

Based on what he's heard from engineers, the fire only damaged about 10 per cent of the bridge. It's repairable but CN is choosing not to.

"I think it comes down to dollars and cents I really do. I think they don't want to take money out of their pockets to repair that bridge plain and simple," Hobbs said.

"This fire was just the tipping point for them and an excuse for them not to build this bridge."

But Hobbs and Morriseau said the company is bound to maintain the bridge in perpetuity according to the agreement. Morriseau said until that agreement changes, it needs to be honoured.

Another meeting with the company was scheduled two weeks ago but CN canceled. Morriseau said she and the city are willing to meet any day at any time, the sooner the better.

As for the cause of the fire, Morriseau said the question has been asked but it's still in the hands of investigators.


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owtfnow says:
There are a few people that if they do not frequent the area over the swing bridge or highway 61 are not aware of the 1000's of vehicles going to the FWFN. There 1000s of vehicles that use the swing bridge to access West Fort from Mountain Road (not Mountain Drive) as well as from hwy 61.
Revenues are down as not as many people frequent West Fort as often. There is a lot of industry in the area and keeping the bridge closed has cause so many to suffer
If you drive in the area and have to enter or exit hwy 61 on or from Chippewa Road, there is close to 2000 vehicles per hour. It is noisy, unsafe (almost an accident every day). I feel bad for the people that live around the corner and have to put up with some of the motorists that are not mindful and do not know the rules of the road. It has become very dangerous. Is a fatality the only thing that will force this issue? A toll? Don't be ridiculous. ..why not toll all the bridges. Everyone uses it.
5/14/2014 10:58:46 AM
wilbar says:
If the city puts one dime towards a new bridge which is not in the city limits -- I am putting a for sale sign on my place and leaving this poorly governed city. It will be the final straw --
5/11/2014 4:57:39 PM
Det John Kimble says:
wilbar that is highly unlikely, the city is strapped for cash and I believe after this winter it will have to realign its focus. The average quality of roads has declined terribly due to frost, the snow clearing budget is over the top.
Its also not difficult to see the cities focus is the events centre which is a "center" of contention.
If they mention a 100 million dollar bridge ...the people will flip their lids.....

Hobbs is simply politicking with FWFN. Its a simple question of "Why not push CN".
5/12/2014 8:29:59 AM
mika says:
Seriously wilbar... you haven't seen a map! The bridge, on both sides is in the City of Thunder Bay.
5/12/2014 8:34:49 AM
Murphy says:
I agree CN should fix it ONLY if they put a toll on it to maintain the repairs!

Or FWFN should be pro-active and use their resources to build a proper structure for vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Also who is paying for all the legal fees?? City...tax payers??
5/11/2014 9:23:49 AM
Eastender says:
Was there not a proposal to fill in a roadway and block one of the Kam tributaries just upriver from the Jacknife bridge at one time. If CN wants to abandon their obligation to maintain a roadway on the Swing bridge, perhaps they could help pay for an alternative one. A one time payout could possibly build this route and release CN from its obligation to maintain the Swing bridge.
5/11/2014 8:20:05 AM
realist says:
Or CN could go back to original intention of the agreement and only allow Horse and Buggy traffic.
5/11/2014 11:40:47 AM
humnchuck says:
Well, blocking up the McKellar River wouldn't be terribly difficult, but you still need a span to cross the Mission River. There's a tank farm serviced by lake tankers at the junction of the Mission & Kam, and Western Grain up near the James St. bridge last year took a couple salties. The "new" span at the mouth of the Kam prevents any laker traffice at all, so maybe the fill-in plan was prior to construction of that bridge?

On the mainland (FWFN side), not sure if the Resolute sawmill, or old Valley Camp properties, etc. are possibilities for a road through. In any event, the upgrades needed to roads across the islands would cost a lot as well.
5/11/2014 7:30:51 PM
Curious says:
Just ask the government for a new bridge, you know they will gladly give you what you want. After all, it is votes and taxpayers money, what do they have to lose.
5/11/2014 7:36:32 AM
ranma says:
Joey, if they build it, it is not like the funds will come from the band. As they are First Nations, all the funds would come from tax dollars, so once again taxpayers would be on the hook for it. It is a no win situation. Either the city builds a bridge with the help of the feds, or the band builds a bridge with money from the feds.

Either way, taxpayers lose.
5/11/2014 1:42:20 AM
anvil of crom says:
pull the pin and put the pressure on CN.
5/10/2014 4:38:34 PM
hey_buddy says:
Lori you said it all perfectly.
5/10/2014 11:28:04 AM
lori says:
I am raising these topics for discussion only.

Do we need the bridge.

If it is about fire or ambulance response, what is stopping the reserve from providing that themselves. Is that a viable option.

If so, then we do not need the bridge. It is a convenience not a necessity if those are covered.

Does the reserve support fire/ambulance in our city in some financial arrangement or is the service provided by the city at no cost. Does anyone know??

Obviously without the bridge, response time is an issue but surely the reserve can provide a medical solution in the area. Using and RN or a nurse practitioner to provide emergency response 24/7. It would be a short term solution till this bridge thing is sorted out.

If those two solutions are found, fire/ambulance, do we need to worry about this bridge????

anyone have any idea?

Because right now, based on the little information I have, I am not concerned about inconvenience when discussing 100 mil for a new bridge.
5/10/2014 6:54:54 AM
RelaxinginMurillo says:
Were fire trucks even *allowed* to cross the bridge ? They appear to be pretty wide and heavy.. but I dont know for sure, maybe they always had to use Hwy61 ?

Maybe a first response/fire station located at about the bottom of Mountain drive ? It could cover the FWFN, as well as the Mountain rd / Riverdale areas ?
5/10/2014 2:12:43 PM
RelaxinginMurillo says:
Further.. if you look on the map of fire hall coverage, it would provide good coverage. Neebing and James are just too far away..

5/10/2014 2:17:25 PM
joey joe joe jr. shabadoo says:
Build a new fire hall/ambulance station right on the island then....

Im sure FWFN would pay for this to ensure the safety of their folk...would they not?
5/10/2014 5:24:26 PM
humnchuck says:
On which island?
5/10/2014 10:07:49 PM
nascarrulez says:
The 1906 agreement covered the use of the bridge by horse and buggy. It wasn't design for vehicle traffic. Just because it has been patched together to allow vehicles to cross it, does not mean it is a good idea. Anybody that has driven over it in the last, at least ten years, can attest to that.

If the city and reserve take this to court, they will lose, no matter what solid footing the mayor thinks they stand on. The agreement never covered 2 to 5 ton vehicles crossing the bridge and the agreement was never amended to include motorized, vehicular traffic.
5/10/2014 1:18:11 AM
caesarjbasquitti says:
The Chipewa Park an Mount McKay Park are both Thunder Bay Tourist issues that the City should be helping invest in.

We have not bought a new ride for the Chipewa Park in decades...yet we spent close to a million for those two lighted morse code 'fingers' at the waterfront...?

Time to rethink our basic priorities...!
5/9/2014 11:34:54 PM
Kam River says:
Mayor Hobbs wants to build a Unity Bridge. Why?
There is no major benefit to the citizen of Thunder Bay, yet the Mayor is having city staff wasting staff time and money on The Hobb's Bridge.
Also does Fort William First Nation pay for the transit buses run up and down the streets of the Reserve. (Anemki Dr and Chippewa Road from 7 a.m. to 9:55 p.m.)
How is paying the cost of the buses and the drivers. Hopefully not the city of Thunder Bay Tax payers
5/9/2014 6:34:56 PM
armchair tom brady says:
Is there a copy of that 1906 agreement online somewhere?
5/9/2014 5:10:14 PM
tsb says:
There is a copy at the city archives, but that would require leaving your house.
5/9/2014 7:36:24 PM
humnchuck says:
It has been asked of the reporters here numerous times over the past six months if a public version of the agreement might be available. To date, it's not been published. Perhaps the document isn't available for public viewing?

Thoughts on this, Leith Dunick?

5/9/2014 9:54:36 PM
Leith Dunick says:
I haven't covered every story, but I'm pretty sure we've asked. To be sure I just sent a message to the mayor asking if we can look at it and possibly publish it.
5/10/2014 10:20:38 AM
Enquirer says:
Wow! Wow! Wow, there tsb!

Leave your house? Conduct your own research? Add meaningful dialogue after said research? I thought I was the crazy one around here...apparently not!

How are people going to make overgeneralized/overarching comments about agreements of old if they actually had those agreements at hand? Next thing you're going to tell me is that I should read up on old treaties! Bah! Gut feeling is what guides me and others around here.

Much akin to Fox News aka "We Report Those Chain Emails Your Grandma Receives as News", people could of course read that agreement then make up their own reality; that seems to be what occurs around here most of the time anyways.

I ask of you, tsb, is it not just easier to blame TBNewswatch and company for lazy reporting when the facts you want cleared up can easily be solved by yourself?...that's what I thought; path of least resistance, my friend! The tried, tested, and true method of many members on here.
5/10/2014 1:18:37 AM
tsb says:
Dougall Media is a small business, and local journalism across North America is dying as an industry. I don't think they actually have the resources to do real investigative journalism. It takes a lot of time and money for someone to investigate, and Dougall Media doesn't have either. It's not their fault, that's just the reality of local TV in North America today.
5/11/2014 12:54:14 PM
Enquirer says:
Wow! Again with these crazy points, tsb!

Are meaning to tell me that small news services that run on limited budgets all the while dealing with ridiculous expectations from readers that they somehow cover issues with the capacity of say, CBC or CNN, is somehow an excuse?!!!??


Much like I expect the police to be at the scene of any crime that is happening, >as it happens<, I expect TBNewswatch to run the journalist gambit. Is it really that hard for a handful of reporters to cover every news story and backstory to it in this city? Of course not! I detect laziness here, Leith.

Much like the story that was covered with the local DNA lab participating in mapping the supposed DNA of Jesus, I asked them to retrieve the Holy Grail to conduct independent testing on it for any DNA. Did it happen? NO! Shotty journalism, tsb. Do not make excuses for them!!!!
5/11/2014 4:18:52 PM
j_northey says:
Glad they are finally going at CN, but why did it take this long for the mayor to start pushing? Couldn't have anything to do with an election coming up could it? Nah.
5/9/2014 5:06:12 PM
DustBunny says:
Did CN finally show up for the meeting today? I saw on Twitter that after 45 minutes they still had not shown up at City Hall.
5/9/2014 4:49:08 PM
mystified says:
You want a bridge to cross the Kam, build it and take on the liability. CN should fix the bridge and charge a toll and then see how many cheopo's use it. It would have very little traffic if any at all.
5/9/2014 4:42:49 PM
kurt says:
i think the mayor - and the chief are wasting their time - if you want a bridge - build one - heck put a toll on it - and watch the people still drive the extra 10 minutes ,
5/9/2014 4:31:29 PM
King Farouk says:
build one? There already is one. It just needs repairs.

I agree with fighting for the existing bridge before spending $80 mil on new one.
5/10/2014 4:32:02 PM
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