Motorists have expressed concerns with the conditions of the James Street Swing Bridge. City officials confirmed Thursday they will meet with CN engineers next week to discuss a long-term maintenance plan for the century-old span.
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Cracked metal plates spanning the James Street Swing Bridge have several motorists calling for the century-old structure’s replacement.
The bridge, owned by the Canadian National Railway, is the main link between the city and Fort William First Nation, with thousands of cars using it to traverse the Kaminisquia River each day.
Terry Schmerk lives on Mountain Road and has used the crossing for the past 15 years. It’s starting to frighten him, he said.
“It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to travel and it’s gotten even more horrendous, as far as being backed up with people going to get gas services, the elevators. There’s a lot of industry out here as well as residential, and the bridge can’t take the traffic, especially with the speed bumps. It just backs it up.”
Calling it a blight on the city landscape, Schmerk said it’s just a huge, ugly pimple that needs to be dealt with sooner, rather than later.
“I think the city … has to have a new bridge. We need to allow access here. To access Highway 61 in the morning is brutal as far as traffic goes. It’s a long wait. It’s dangerous trying to access it. This bridge needs to be renewed, and I think (with) a new bridge, because I don’t they can repair this bridge. They shouldn’t have to have speed bumps to make it safe.”
CN officials, reached by phone Thursday afternoon, said the James Street Swing Bridge is perfectly safe for both railway and commuter traffic – though motorists are cautioned to obey the 20-kilometre-an-hour speed limit and height and weight restrictions.
CN engineers are slated to meet next Wednesday with the city’s engineering process, when they hope to address a long-term maintenance plan for the aging bridge.
However both CN officials and city engineer Pat Mauro declined interview opportunities on Thursday. The city has a usage agreement for commuter traffic to use the structure.
Schmerk’s wife Maxine said there’s plenty of proof the bridge has seen better days.
“A woman fell through here within the last year. If it had been somebody else, perhaps more attention would have been drawn to how desperate this bridge needs to be refurbished or closed down – one or the other,” she said, having crossed the bridge, parked her car and walked back across the bridge to have her say with reporters capturing images of the broken plates.
The woman had to be rescued from the river last July, after falling through walking along the west side of the span. Two people were sent to hospital in the incident, which occurred when a metal plate on the bridge came loose, exposing the wooden beams below.
“Listen to it. It’s a rickety old bridge,” Maxine Scherk said.
Kristine Maksymiw said she called both Thunder Bay Police and the Anishinabek Police Service on Thursday, asking what can be done about the dangerous conditions on the bridge.
It’s an ongoing concern, she said.
“Las year I drove across and had noted there was an actual one of the metal plates that was actually missing,” she said.
“There was an actual hole going all the way through below … Shortly thereafter a woman actually fell through the bridge. It’s scary. Somebody needs to be responsible for this before someone is truly injured or dies.”
Maksymiw said a lot of people she knows refuse to cross the bridge and take the long way into the city or onto the reserve.
“All those bolts that are just sticking up, again, you’re literally trying to sway back and forth to where it’s safe, not driving over these bolts. It needs to be fixed.”
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