THUNDER BAY - The city and Fort William First Nation have to wait until Monday to find out if CN will accept their proposal to reopen the James Street Swing Bridge.
CN presented a proposal to open the bridge in the short-term to vehicle traffic and the city and Fort William First nation made a counter-proposal Thursday afternoon at city hall.
CN’s vice-president of corporate services Olivier Chouc said he’s taking it back to the railway and will bring a response to council by end of the business day next Monday.
“It was a good discussion. It is a positive dialogue and I’m hopeful we’re going to be able to resolve our differences in the short-term,” he said.
Any costs or repair work necessary to reopen the bridge will remain confidential while talks are still underway, an agreement made by all three parties.
Westfort Coun. and intergovernmental liaison committee chairman Joe Virdiramo said the reason for the confidentiality is because of issues of legality.
He also said he has no idea when the bridge could be reopened, but he hopes it will be within the next few months.
But it depends on CN’s response to the proposal.
“If everything goes well in the response, we will take that response and the proposal to council on July 21,” said Virdiramo, noting that all financial matters need to go before council.
“We’ll just see how things roll out,” he said.
Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau said any talk around contributing money to the bridge is warranted at a later date and the community hasn’t begun to consider those options yet.
“I believe that there is still a 1906 agreement in place and I think it needs to be adhered to and I think CN has full legal authority and obligation to that 1906 agreement and they are still legally responsible for their bridge,” she said.
“This is not the city’s bridge and it’s not Fort William First Nation’s bridge. It’s CN’s bridge.”
Morriseau added she doesn’t see why CN wouldn’t want to reopen the James Street Swing Bridge.
“I am hopeful in the sense that we put very sound arguments forward and that the bridge ought to be opened,” she said.
“Whether CN acknowledges those options and whether CN acknowledges their legal duties and obligations to the original agreement to open that bridge, it’s up to them.”
The James Street Swing Bridge has been closed to vehicles for 246 days since a fire severely damaged the structure.