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City, Fort William First Nation yet to receive Swing Bridge update

Thunder Bay city manager had said an update was expected to be provided by Monday but both parties are still awaiting word of the railway's plan for the bridge.
Swing Bridge (FWFN side)
The James Street Swing Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since a fire on Oct. 29, 2013. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – Fort William First Nation chief Peter Collins believes the timeframe for waiting for CN Rail to take action to reopen the James Street Swing Bridge is reaching its end.

Thunder Bay city manager Norm Gale last week had said the city expected an update from CN Rail by Monday for the railway’s plans for the James Street Swing Bridge, which had been court ordered to be reopened to vehicular traffic.

But that date will come and go without an update from CN, with a company spokesperson now saying they expect to provide an update to the city this week.

“It’s frustrating because there’s a ruling now that says they have to open the bridge immediately,” Collins said. “We will wait patiently but not much longer.”

The Ontario Court of Appeal last month sided with the city, overturning a previous Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruling by ordering the railway to reopen the bridge.

The span, which connects the city to Fort William First Nation across the Kaministiquia River, has been closed to vehicular traffic since a fire broke out on the northern approach spans on the evening of Oct. 29, 2013 though trains resumed crossing just three days later.

The court ruling did not provide a specific direction for how and when the railway must be reopen the bridge. CN officials have not publicly ruled out appealing the court decision.

During a city news conference announcing the appeal court ruling, Collins expressed excitement but said he didn’t want to get overjoyed because they didn’t know what would happen next.

The chief still holds a similar view more than one month later.

“Until you see somebody really physically working on the bridge, that’s when you start jumping for joy,” Collins said. “It’s frustrating to say the least that our community has to still endure the hardships that we do.”

Collins, who last week anticipated good news from the railway’s update, said he has put a number of potential short and long term solutions on the table.

Fort William First Nation remains willing to play a helping role, he said, adding the ongoing bridge closure is a question he gets asked wherever he goes and remains a significant concern.

“Just that safety for our elders, the safety for our kids when they’re bused into the city, that’s what we’re worried about and the critical part of why our community is still looking for this to be done,” Collins said.

Matt Vis

About the Author: Matt Vis

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Matt is honoured to tell the stories of his hometown.
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