THUNDER BAY -- The city’s mayor says a James Street Bridge fire is being used as an excuse by CN so the company doesn't have to fix it.
While rail traffic re-opened on the bridge within days of an October fire, it remains closed to vehicles.
A recent report from the railway recommends that the bridge, a vital link between Fort William First Nation and Thunder Bay, be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic indefinitely but continue to used for rail as the bridge is actually two separate structures.
But the two communities argue that closing the bridge would contradict a 1906 agreement made between the Grand Trunk Railway and Fort William.
Keith Hobbs and Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau met with lawyers, city engineers and consulting firm True Grit Friday afternoon.
Morriseau called it a strategy session that developed a three-step plan but couldn't say what those steps were until a meeting with CN, originally expected Friday but now in the coming weeks, is held.
"These are things that are very sensitive," she said.
Hobbs said step one of the process is to get the bridge open again. The city has also hired a Toronto law firm that specializes in railway cases.
"One thing I can tell you is that we're on very solid legal ground," Hobbs said.
Based on what he's heard from engineers, the fire only damaged about 10 per cent of the bridge. It's repairable but CN is choosing not to.
"I think it comes down to dollars and cents I really do. I think they don't want to take money out of their pockets to repair that bridge plain and simple," Hobbs said.
"This fire was just the tipping point for them and an excuse for them not to build this bridge."
But Hobbs and Morriseau said the company is bound to maintain the bridge in perpetuity according to the agreement. Morriseau said until that agreement changes, it needs to be honoured.
Another meeting with the company was scheduled two weeks ago but CN canceled. Morriseau said she and the city are willing to meet any day at any time, the sooner the better.
As for the cause of the fire, Morriseau said the question has been asked but it's still in the hands of investigators.