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Thursday September 3 2015
4:53 AM EDT
2014-07-15 at 17:12

Final offer

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- CN has given the city a final offer with a one-week deadline over the James Street swing bridge.

The company sent letters to mayor Keith Hobbs and Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau giving the communities two choices to open the bridge, which has been closed to vehicle traffic since a fire last October, back up to the public.

The company would pay 50 per cent, up to a maximum of $1.5 million, to have vehicles share the rail deck if the city discharges the company from a 1906 agreement to maintain the bridge in perpetuity.

Costs would go toward improvements on the deck so both rail and vehicles could travel over it, along with signals.

The other option is to have the company cover all of the costs and head to court over the more than hundred-year-old agreement between the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the town of Fort William.

"If the city is confident in its position, they should be comfortable with that option," the letter states.

CN vice-president of law Olivier Chouc said while the rail part of the bridge is sound, the vehicle sections are 30 years past their useful life span.

"It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that they're no longer in a condition to accommodate traffic," he said.

In the letter CN said the city continues to suggest the vehicle roadway is sound despite engineering reports.

"The only way to prevent potentially fatal incidents is to close the bridge to vehicular traffic," it states. "Doing anything else would be completely irresponsible."

The letter also states that the city has ignored basic facts and has threatened the company that it will attack CN's reputation "if it did not obtain satisfaction."

Hobbs said he can't comment much until city council discusses the issue Monday night but he's not impressed. That meeting is the reason CN has given the city until Tuesday.

"We believe it's a simple offer but a final offer," Chouc said.

It's time for all of council to have their say Hobbs said. 

"They're (CN) the ones that started this mess," he said.   

As for the cause of the fire, Chouc said the company knows as much as the public does.

"We have no idea what caused the fire," he said. "I don't think we'll ever know."

In CN's letter to Morriseau it states that Fort William First Nation was paid more than $242,000 in compensation for lands in 1906. Even if it wasn't compensated, CN said the issue needs to be taken up with the federal government.

The company also made an agreement with the community in 1999 to transfer lands to FWFN for development. CN said that made clear that the community released any claims it had against the company.

The deadline is July 22 at 5 p.m.


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