Published On: Fri, Jan 29th, 2016

Digging out from blizzard a tale of two cities

Corner of Main and Bridge streets in New Hope

Clearing key intersections like Bridge and Main streets is a priority for New Hope crews.

It’s been nearly one week since Winter Storm Jonas dropped its first flakes on Lambertville and New Hope, and residents are still dealing with the aftermath.

While the borough of New Hope declared a limited state of disaster emergency, the entirety of New Jersey was under a state of emergency.

The storm obviously affected the two municipalities in different ways, with the variation coming as much from topography and street layout as from differing priorities and traditions.

On the simplest level, with notable exceptions being residents of Lambertville’s prominent hills, most of the downtown is arranged in a fairly flat, dense grid. In contrast, downtown streets in New Hope are fewer, longer, often hillier, and more irregular, as is almost everything about New Hope’s infrastructure.

Another important distinction is that almost everyone who lives downtown in New Hope has a parking spot in the form of a driveway, paid space or special pass. Lambertville has more on-street places to park, but not all are metered, especially as one gains distance from Bridge Street.

Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio said Tuesday night that the city had already spent $13,200 in snow removal. Five crews were out shoveling snow in the city: Lambertville Public Works Department, Lambertville Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA), Niece Lumber, and two private crews. The workers at the MUA and the Lumber company donated their time at no extra cost to taxpayers.

We can prepare for keeping the streets open and clear, but it’s hard to prepare for two feet of snow,” the mayor said. “Our streets are compact, especially downtown. It’s not just the clearing, we generally have to remove the snow as well.”

The final destination of evacuated Lambertville snow is the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission property north of town in Delaware Township, near the Route 202 bridge, which now resembles the back of a gigantic Zamboni exit.

DelVecchio emphasized that the city has also received assistance from the NJ State Office of Emergency Management, as well as Hunterdon County Office of Emergency Management. Both kept state and county roads clear during and after the storm.

IMG_3747

A giant snow pile blocking pedestrians at Swan Street and Route 29 (165).

While state and county roads have been in excellent shape, they’ve created some alternate issues — crosswalk snow banks.

On the west side of Bridge and North Union streets, the pedestrian ramps at crosswalk curb cuts are still yet obstructed. A massive snow obstacle remains at the corner of Route 29 (165) and Swan Street.

The New Jersey DOT notes under Transportation, Sub-chapter 3: Responsibility for Maintenance 16:38-3.1:

Owners of the property abutting a highway, road, street or thoroughfare under State jurisdiction shall be entirely responsible for the clearing of snow and ice from all abutting sidewalks and abutting driveway cuts, openings or aprons, whether or not they are located on public or private property.

In other words, the onus of shoveling those strategic locations is on nearby property owners. Some snow banks are so large and now frozen that only a heavy-duty snow machine (or Mother Nature) could remove them, tools the average resident doesn’t possess.

In New Hope, Tom Carroll and his Public Works crew of three were pushed to their limits in the wake of Jonas, working around the clock, talking with residents out shoveling snow, and using a couple of pieces of specialized equipment borrowed from the county.
 
Officials privately acknowledge a high degree of cooperation between New Hope crews and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Borough workers typically can be seen helping to clear high traffic areas following heavy snows, some normally covered by PennDOT, as sidewalk meets roadway in slushy crosswalks. It depends on who can get there when needed, say observers.
 
The “snow emergency” that the borough declared could lead to reimbursement via state and or federal funds, confirmed Borough Hall, although much of the clean up cost will undoubtedly be funded by New Hope itself.

New Hope and Lambertville — two municipalities with two different sets of priorities to balance when emergencies arrive. And this one isn’t over yet.

About the Author

- Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website: http://stevechernoski.com.

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