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Rail News: Canadian National Railway - CN

CN's James Street swing bridge reopens after long legal battle


The CN-owned James Street swing bridge in Thunder Bay, Ontario, reopened Nov. 9 to motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic after being closed for more than six years following a fire.

The bridge connects Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation across the Kaministiquia River. It closed after a fire broke out on the northern approach spans on Oct. 29, 2013. Train traffic reopened later that week, but the bridge remained closed to motorists and pedestrians since that time.

“CN is pleased that the bridge is reopening and that this important road link in Thunder Bay is once again accessible to the public,” said Olivier Chouc, CN's vice president of law, in a press release.

The bridge's driving lane remains unchanged. The speed limit across the bridge will be maintained at about 12 mph, with a load carrying restriction of 33,000 pounds.

A lengthy legal battle over the bridge's repair and maintenance issues occurred following the fire.

The city of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation argued that a 1906 agreement over the bridge's construction required the railroad to maintain it in perpetuity. CN countered that it had fulfilled its obligations and the bridge no longer met modern standards and would require more substantial work than just maintenance, according to a CBC news report.

The case ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada, which rejected CN's appeal from a lower court. In the end, the courts required CN to uphold its obligation to repair and reopen the bridge to all vehicles under the 1906 agreement, Thunder Bay city officials said in a press release.

The bridge repairs required widening of the city's roadway approaches. That work was completed within CN's construction schedule timeline so that the bridge could now reopen to traffic, city officials said.

“We are pleased to see this important connection between Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation finally reopened,” said Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro. “We recognize the challenges and frustrations citizens from both communities have faced without this access point. CN, as directed by the highest court in Ontario, has fulfilled their obligation to repair the bridge and we can now move forward as more connected communities."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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