The chief of Fort William First Nation says it will likely be years before a new bridge is built over the Kaministiquia River, between Thunder Bay and the neighbouring First Nation.

Peter Collins said he's been in talks with all levels of government and CN Rail about how to move forward with restoring access since the James Street swing bridge was closed down. A judge recently dismissed Thunder Bay's application to force CN Rail to re-open the road portion of the existing bridge.

Collins said he didn't wait for the court's ruling, instead starting discussions several weeks ago with the provincial and federal governments over terms of reference to get a new bridge built.

"We knew ... any decision that came out would have an impact on our community," he said.

Even though those talks are underway, Collins said there are still a lot of hurdles to jump before traffic is able to drive on a new structure.

"It's probably anywhere from three to five years before we see actual traffic on it," he said.

James Street swing bridge

The James Street swing bridge has been closed since 2013. (CBC)

"We're trying to get some resources to start that work and do some preliminary studies," Collins said of where things are currently. "Identifying the issues and [the] possibility of where [a new bridge] can be located."

Even if the necessary preliminary agreements are in place within a few months, environmental assessments and design and build work would take a few years, Collins said. There's also the issue of sorting out how much each level of government will pay.

"It's been my mindset all along, at the end of the day, I will continue to work to try and to resolve the issue so that we have access back [to] our community, especially to deal with emergency response," he said.