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Town of Watertown takes ownership of Route 3 bridge snow removal

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A couple of consecutive mild winters can make some issues seemingly go away, but like a band of lake effect snow, they tend to return.

One such issue is who is responsible for removing snow from the Arsenal Street/Route 3 bridge over Interstate 81 in the town of Watertown. After the state Department of Transportation completed a $34 million reconstruction of the bridge and its interchanges in 2007, the agency and the town each looked to the other to keep the snow cleared.

However, with the bridge’s sidewalks again clogged, there is no longer any question as to who should handle the work.

“That is our responsibility there,” town Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett said Wednesday.

Mr. Bartlett said town crews have cleared the walks a few times this winter, but with almost relentless snowfall, the town has not had the manpower available to get to the walks immediately.

“Our priority lies with maintaining and keeping open the 65 miles of roads that we have to plow when it snows like this,” he said.

Region 7 DOT spokesman Michael R. Flick said state highway law is clear on DOT being responsible for roads from “curb to curb,” but that snow removal along sidewalks is the responsibility of the adjacent property. He concedes that the issue along the Arsenal Street/Route 3 bridge is somewhat unusual, as there is no apparent adjacent property owner.

“The only place we’ve run into that, historically, is right there, the Arsenal Street bridge,” he said.

Mr. Bartlett said as soon as a town crew has time, the bridge, which connects the city to multiple shopping outlets and restaurants in the town, will be cleared. He also issued a reminder to other property owners in the area that they, too, have a responsibility to keep sidewalks clear.

“Like everyone else, they’ve been falling behind a little bit this year,” he said.

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