City of Thunder Bay appeals James Street bridge decision
Notice of Appeal says judge in earlier ruling 'failed to understand what he was being asked to do'
The City of Thunder Bay is appealing a June decision by an Ontario Superior Court judge, who ruled CN Rail is not responsible for repairing the James Street Swing Bridge.
A notice of appeal was filed with the Court of Appeal for Ontario on July 10. In the notice, the city says Justice G. P. Smith "failed to understand what he was being asked to do" when he made his June ruling in favour of CN.
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In the notice of appeal, the city is asking the court to compel CN to reopen the bridge and continue to maintain it.
The bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2013, when it was damaged by a fire. It continues to be used by trains, however.
In the June ruling, Smith states that the onus was on the city to clearly define what work is required to make the bridge safe for motorized traffic, but the city had not done so.
In the notice of appeal, however, the city's lawyers — listed as Christopher Matthews and Sanj Sood of Toronto firm Aird & Berlis LLP — say that Smith wasn't tasked with "making a specific order as to how the bridge should be repaired."
Case hinges on 1906 agreement
Rather, his task was to interpret the 1906 agreement between the then-town of Fort William and the Grand Trunk Railroad — which was later absorbed into CN, the company that currently owns the bridge — which says the railway will maintain the bridge in perpetuity.
"The learned trial judge allowed CN to succeed merely by saying that the bridge did not meet the standards that must be met if one is designing and building a new bridge," the notice reads. "All the experts agreed, however, that you do not close a bridge merely because it does not have the same features as a new bridge. Older bridges rarely meet current design standards, including other bridges operated by CN."
The document states CN operates more than 7,000 bridges under its Bridge Management Program, and that the company has a responsibility to ensure those bridges are safe for "operations and the general public."
Safety issues caused by closure
The notice also states the judge "ignored" safety issues caused by the bridge's closure. The James Street bridge is the most-direct route between the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation, and traffic travelling between the two communities is now forced to take Highway 61 and Chippewa Road.
The notice states that the intersection has seen an increase in motor vehicle accidents as a result of its having to absorb the extra traffic.
Finally, the notice also notes that CN did not provide any evidence of what's needed to reopen the bridge to vehicular traffic.
City representatives could not be reached for comment on Monday.
A hearing on the appeal has not yet been scheduled.