Burned bridge fate in CN's hands, officials say
Railway owner staying mum on issue while investigation into Thunder Bay bridge fire continues
The fire on Thunder Bay's James Street swing bridge has re-ignited debate over whether it should be replaced.
The bridge has linked the city and Fort William First Nation for more than a century, but neither community has the power to decide its future.
Thunder Bay Museum curator Tory Tronrud said the swing bridge was built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1908.
"The city had a hand in building it,” he said. “They paid $50,000 ... and, in return for that, they got perpetual use of the bridge.”
A few years later, Grand Trunk was no longer in business, but a similar agreement is still in place with current owner Canadian National Railways.
Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs said that means it's ultimately up to the company whether the bridge is replaced.
“Maybe it's time that CN looks at that,” he said. "That bridge has been a big issue lately."
City councillor Rebecca Johnson said it might be opportune to look at options now.
"There is a point in time when that bridge will not be able to be used, for all kinds of reasons,” she said. “Maybe the fire has upped that in regards to timing."
A spokesperson for CN declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation into the fire.
In the meantime, the chief of Fort William First Nation said she'll approach the city and CN to talk about replacing the bridge.
For now, the nearly 9,000 drivers who travel the bridge every day will have to take the long way around.