CN Rail response to bridge reopening proposal expected Monday

Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation officials met with CN Rail representatives on Thursday afternoon.

James St. swing bridge has been closed to traffic for eight months

The James Street swing bridge in Thunder Bay has been closed to vehicle traffic for more than eight months. (www.panoramio.com)

Drivers in Thunder Bay and the Fort William First Nation will have to wait until at least Monday to learn when the James Street swing bridge might reopen. 

CN Rail has submitted a short-term proposal for reopening the bridge's roadway. The city and the First Nation don't agree with some of the terms, so they gave CN a counter-proposal at a meeting on Thursday afternoon.  

"[We] gave them some time to think it over and get back to us by Monday," said Thunder Bay city councillor Joe Virdiramo.   

Due to legal reasons, Virdiramo said, he couldn't release any details until after CN responds. 

But when CBC News asked if the issues under discussion include money, who pays for what, and engineering and structural aspects of the bridge, he said, "I can't be specific, but I think all those issues that you have mentioned are part and parcel of this situation right now."  

Virdiramo said he is optimistic that everyone, including CN, wants to see the bridge reopened to vehicles. 

"Based on our discussions, we feel that we're all on the same page," he said. "How we get [from Point A] to Point B is under discussion."

Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau also felt optimistic after Thursday's meeting with CN.

"Our goal and everybody's goal at this time is to open that bridge immediately for vehicular traffic," she said. 

"I think that the option that we've presented ... [is] a step in a good direction," Morriseau said. "I'm hoping that from these discussions something more tangible and concrete will come back in the form of opening the bridge."

Virdiramo said if an agreement is reached with CN on Monday, a proposal will be presented to Thunder Bay city council on July 21.  

Although he couldn't say for sure how long it would take to get the bridge ready for traffic, Virdiramo said he hoped it could reopen within months.  

The James Street swing bridge has been closed to vehicles since it caught fire last October. As a result, drivers have had to take a much longer alternate route between Fort William and Thunder Bay. 

The railway portion of the bridge reopened to trains within a month of the fire