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City awaiting CN response for Swing Bridge plan

City officials expect a response from CN Rail on the company's intentions for the bridge on July 16.
James Street Swing Bridge
The James Street Swing Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since a fire on Oct. 29, 2013. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – City officials expect to have a clearer picture of CN Rail’s intentions for the James Street Swing Bridge within the next week.

The Ontario Court of Appeal last month ruled that CN must reopen the bridge to vehicular traffic, potentially ending the legal stalemate that has resulted in the span being closed to vehicular traffic since an October 2013 fire.

City manager Norm Gale on Wednesday said the city has been in communication with the railway about the bridge and expects a response by July 16.

“We have expressed to CN the critical importance to the city and to (Fort William First Nation) to have the bridge reopened to vehicular traffic,” Gale said. “We have asked that CN provide a definitive timeline as to when repairs will be effected to the bridge, and when CN expects the bridge to be reopened.”

The appeal court overturned a previous Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision, ruling the original 1906 agreement that covered the construction of the bridge remains a legally binding document and that CN must meet its obligation to provide a perpetual right to cross the Kaministiquia River.

The court’s order did not include any timelines for which CN must abide or specific repairs the railway must undertake to reopen the bridge.

CN officials said they continue to review the court decision and potential next steps but did confirm they have been in contact with both the city and Fort William First Nation.

"Regardless of the direction forward, we wish to continue to work with the city and Fort William First Nation to reach a solution to the issue of the James Street Swing Bridge," a statement from the company reads.

The century-old bridge had been closed to vehicular traffic since a fire broke out on the northern approach spans on the evening of Oct. 29, 2013, though trains were able to resume crossing three days later.

The city had spent $1.3 million pursuing the case through the courts, as of late May.