Fort William First Nation waits for word on bridge reopening

The chief of the Fort William First Nation is frustrated by the lack of information about plans to repair the James Street swing bridge

Thunder Bay First Nation Chief says it's waiting for a report from CN Rail

A CN Police vehicle is parked near the James Street bridge in Thunder Bay, where a fire broke out at the end of October. The bridge has only been reopened for use by trains. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

The chief of the Fort William First Nation is frustrated by the lack of information about plans to repair the James Street swing bridge.

The crossing between the community and Thunder Bay remains closed to vehicles and pedestrians, three weeks after it was damaged by fire.

Georjann Morriseau said she's asked CN Rail for a full report on the extent of damages and a time line for its reopening.

“Right now nobody can cross the bridge and it is impacting our community businesses, but also from people being able to leave the First Nation and come back,” she said. “It's quite frustrating, to say the least.”

Morriseau said the railway promised a report, but didn't say when it would be made available.

CN spokesperson Lindsay Fedchyshyn said the railway plans to meet December 5 with Thunder Bay and Fort William officials to discuss "matters of mutual interest, including the bridge."

Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs said the city is also waiting for a progress report from CN.

An e-mail from Fedchyshyn to the CBC did not clarify whether any announcements will be made by the railway prior to the proposed meeting.

'In the dark'

Morriseau said Wednesday she hadn't heard from the railway in two weeks.

"We're kind of in the dark as to where everything's at,” she said.

“So, when I'm told I'm gonna be contacted I can sit back so long until I'm at the point where I have to progressively pursue somebody myself, so I've done that now.”

Morriseau said the drop in traffic to and from the First Nation has hit the gas stations particularly hard.

“The gas bars … depend on the traffic … and when there's such an inconvenience in going all the way around through the highway, people are stopping in Westfort for gas or they're going elsewhere in the city for their services,” she said.

"The level of customers isn't there right now because of the bridge.”

A worker at K and A Variety told the CBC she's noticed a significant drop in business since the fire. At least one gas bar has also had to start cutting hours.

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