CN Rail James Street Bridge Requires Visionary Solutions

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The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List
The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List
The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List
The James Street Bridge is also an Ontario Heritage List

THUNDER BAY – Since October 2013, when the CN Rail James Street Bridge burnt, Thunder Bay has seen a range of discussion over the fire, over the contract between CN and the City of Thunder Bay, and over what to do. The basic story appears to be that the City of Thunder Bay wants CN Rail to repair the bridge to honour their contract.

Perhaps what really needs to be done here is for the City of Thunder Bay, and Fort William First Nation to look at what is really needed.

Is a repair job to the 100 year old bridge really the best that the politicians can come up with? Lets hope not.

What is needed is for Thunder Bay, the province of Ontario, and the federal government, along with Fort William First Nation to look at what is really needed.

The simple truth is, that is a new bridge. Traffic out to Fort William First Nation is down. Businesses on the First Nation have seen sales drop. We have seen incidents where accidents have severely restricted access to the First Nation.

Satellite View Fort William First Nation
Satellite View Fort William First Nation

When you take an overview look at the landscape, you can see how the James Street Bridge is no longer positioned for the best benefit of Fort William First Nation. The bridge is not located near the new development on the First Nation.

It almost appears that one of the directions that a new bridge could go is from the intersection of City Road and Mission Road across the river. That would allow quicker access to the city, and would be a likely benefit to Thunder Bay’s long struggling downtown core as well. That new bridge could safely allow Thunder Bay Transit greater access to the community, and it would allow greater access to Chippewa Park as well.

Council and Thunder Bay City Administration appear more focused on the short-term effort of getting the bridge fixed by CN. That effort has been ongoing for well over 15 months.

Moving to a long-term solution should be what Thunder Bay should look at doing.

Over the past summer, visitor numbers to Chippewa Park are reportedly down. Heading into budget deliberations, Thunder Bay City Council is going to face some hard choices. One of those choices will likely come over the funding for Chippewa Park.

Without a plan for making it easy and safe to get to the park, Council will be in the position of putting money into a project that while beautiful and worthy will be visited by few and fewer people.

For Fort William First Nation, each day that goes by without the bridge access, business on the First Nation, including access to Dilico Child Services is harder and harder for people in the community.

CN Rail has not allowed Thunder Bay City Engineers to examine the bridge.

Maybe this is why:

James Street Bridge in Thunder Bay crossing the Kaministiqua River.
James Street Bridge in Thunder Bay crossing the Kaministiqua River.
CN is running trains over the James Street Bridge. The company says the bridge is safe for trains.
CN is running trains over the James Street Bridge. The company says the bridge is safe for trains.
Underside of the James Street Bridge that CN Rail is running freight trains over after an October 2013 fire.
Underside of the James Street Bridge that CN Rail is running freight trains over after an October 2013 fire.
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