Nova Scotia

CN, HRM bridge dispute heads to court

CN wants the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to decide who is responsible for repair costs for 14 bridges in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

CN wants the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to decide who is responsible for repair costs for 14 bridges in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The bridges are all nearly 100 years old and need work. The one that crosses the rail tracks on Tower Road has cracks and broken pieces, for example.

CN and HRM signed a deal in May 2009 to fix the bridges, but the two sides remain locked in a dispute over how to split the repair bill, which at the time was estimated to cost between $7 and $13 million.

"Unfortunately we're at an impasse and we have no choice now but to seek guidance from the regulatory agencies and from the court," said CN spokesman Jim Feeney.

"We thought we had an agreement.  We even agreed on a course of action and every time we've asked CN 'are we starting this year?' it's always another excuse," said District 13 Coun. Sue Uteck. "I don't want to resolve this in a nasty way, but if it takes the courts to resolve it, so be it."

HRM claims it's responsible for the road over the bridges and CN is responsible for the underlying structure. CN disagrees.

CN has also asked the Canadian Transportation Agency to decide who should be billed for replacing the bridge on Quinpool Road.

"This is an avenue that would have been open to both parties," said Shaune MacKinlay, an HRM spokeswoman. "They've chosen to go this route and we're hopeful that it will bring about resolutions to the issues for both parties."

People who use the bridges say they are growing frustrated.

"It's very important to get at it particulary before someone is injured or before the whole job gets to be more expensive than it's already going to be," said Brigitte Newman.

"There's been incidents in other places such as Quebec where bridges have collapsed because the city hasn't been responsible for repairing them," Meghan Hayes said. "So it would be a tragedy to have something like that occur here."

Uteck believes the court's decision will set a precedent for CN, which operates across the country.

"It's not about the little tiny south end of the city. This is a cross-country issue that has the potential to wipe out some of the smaller towns that are already struggling," Uteck said.

There are weight restrictions on five of the bridges, but CN says they're all safe.

The case will be heard in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Dec. 5.

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