CN obligation made clear

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

THERE appears to be no doubt remaining that CN Rail is responsible for providing public use of its bridge on the Kaministiquia River. Fire damaged the old structure nine months ago and negotiations to reopen it have so far failed over apparent differing interpretations of an agreement and the involvement of the Fort William First Nation.
The City of Thunder Bay released the 1906 agreement between the two parties’ predecessors Monday which states in remarkably clear terms that CN must provide conveyance for vehicles and people “in prepetuity.”
The former city of Fort William paid the former Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Co., $50,000 for “the right to cross (a bridge it was obligated to build) for street railway, vehicle and foot traffic . . . (while) the company reserves all right for rail traffic.”
The public roadway would be “supported by brackets on each side of the railway bridge.” These brackets may have been damaged in the fire which remains under investigation by the Ontario fire marshal.
In answer to questions from The Chronicle-Journal, the fire marshal’s spokesman said Monday she has “not received any indication it was an arson,” as initially suspected, and there is “no timeline for the completion of the investigation at this time.”
CN’s delay in assessing damage to the road supports has frustrated bridge users, more so because CN resumed train traffic within days of the fire. Lack of progress on the fire marshal’s investigation has also raised questions on reasons for the delay.
Complicating matters is the First Nation’s surprise claim that CN is trespassing on its land. The agreement talks about the additional right of the town to perpetually “cross the company’s land on the south side of (the river)” as well as its land on the north side leading to Montreal Street.
The First Nation is apparently alleging trespass on road allowances leading from the bridge’s south end across reserve land to five businesses that depend on rail service.
CN has delayed its counter-offer to an earlier proposal by the city while it assesses the trespass claim. But that is a separate matter. Its obligation to allow municipal use of the bridge it agreed to build partly for that purpose is clear.