James Street Bridge – Is it safe?
THUNDER BAY – The James Street Bridge in Thunder Bay has been closed to vehicle traffic since a fire on the bridge at the end of October 2013. The bridge, owned by the Canadian National Railway is being studied by the company before they come forward in public with their plans for the bridge’s future.
On the Fort William First Nation the closure of the bridge to vehicles is an issue of public safety, commerce and business, as well as a vivid demonstration of the relationship between Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation.
The longer the bridge is left closed to public travel, the message is one of importance and who matters more? CN Rail moved very quickly to protect the company’s interests and got the bridge running very fast.
In the days following the fire, a CN Train was stuck on the South Side of the river. The word then was that the company would move very fast to get traffic moving. CN Rail did, for their trains.
The bridge has been in need of repair for years. CN Rail has taken the approach over the past to treat both the City of Thunder Bay and the Fort William First Nation as secondary concerns to residents of both communities. Perhaps the reaction of CN Rail to move quickly to allow trains to cross, and put off the issue of vehicle traffic is the best indication of the company’s attitude in action.
The bridge is not only a transportation connector, but is also a symbolic connection between Fort William First Nation and the City of Thunder Bay. Responsibility for the maintenance of the bridge rests with CN Rail who took over the bridge and the agreement between the former city of Fort William, and Fort William First Nation.
How Safe is the Bridge?
What is next for the James Street Bridge?
It is likely going to take effort from the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, The City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation to get engaged in planning for real and long term solutions.
While there has been some unofficial discussion at a public meeting on Fort William First Nation about a possible blockade of the bridge, the Chief and Council on Fort William First Nation appear willing to work toward other solutions.
Chief Georjann Morriseau and representatives from Council met recently in Edmonton with CN Rail officials.
Thunder Bay Mayor Hobbs has been talking with Fort William First Nation.
The issue is one of major importance to all sides. Getting the problems solved and doing so sooner rather than later is important.