THUNDER BAY – The James Street Bridge remains closed to vehicle traffic as the first anniversary of a fire that damaged the bridge will come at the end of the month. Mayor Keith Hobbs has suggested there is a solution coming.
Fort William First Nation businesses have struggled with declined sales volumes, and businesses in Westfort have also suffered lower sales as the discussions with CN Rail have continued.
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs is stating that there could be a solution coming by the end of the year. Speaking with NNL the Mayor says that a plan is being discussed that would open the bridge to some traffic by the end of the year.
Parents on Fort William First Nation have expressed grave concern for the safety of their youth taking school buses into Thunder Bay. At the junction with Highway 61, there is a flashing yellow light, not a stop light activated by traffic in the turning lane. Heavier traffic to that intersection has raised fears of accidents.
Solving the problem of the bridge being unavailable to vehicle and pedestrian traffic remains a focus, but the timeline from CN Rail remains vague. Right now the bridge is closed to all but rail traffic.
The full economic cost to Thunder Bay businesses and Fort William First Nation is mounting. There have been layoffs at some businesses on the First Nation. The personal costs to local residents, forced to make the longer drive every day adds up as well.
Solving this issue is one that is long overdue. The real and long-term reality that the bridge that is almost 100 years old will need to be replaced seems off the radar screens for most politicians. While in British Columbia, the federal government has stepped up to fund a bridge to a First Nation, there remains no substantive action from the federal government on this issue.
The fire on the bridge seems to have also fired up some of the most divisive divides in Thunder Bay.
Getting past words, and getting to action should be a greater priority for all elected leaders.