FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION, Ont.– The chief of the Fort William First Nation says her community needs long-term answers in the wake of a new report regarding the James Street Swing Bridge.
CN Rail, which owns the bridge, issued an engineering report to both the City of Thunder Bay and the First Nation in the past couple of weeks stating the connection between the two communities should remain indefinitely closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau says the report is being reviewed, along with the original 1906 agreement that guaranteed the use of the bridge in perpetuity.
“We have to sit down and really go over a better plan,” Morriseau said on Tuesday. “The bridge not being open just isn’t acceptable. We really need to figure out how we can get it open and if we can open it.”
The bridge has been closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic since a fire on Oct. 29 of last year resulted in substantial damage. It was reopened to rail traffic a few days following the incident.
The bridge was built in 1908 by the Grand Trunk Railway, which received money from the city in exchange for its use. It was then acquired by CN Rail.
Morriseau and her team are scheduled to meet with Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs and representatives from CN Rail in the next week to discuss the report. She says she has some specific questions she wants answered.
In the short-term, the chief is stressing the need for additional safety measures where Chippewa Road connects with Highway 61.
She is advocating for traffic control measures such as lights at the intersection, reduced speed limits and improved road maintenance. Morriseau has been in communication with the Ministry of Transportation in pursuit of those changes.
“It’s a dangerous area,” Morriseau said.