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Gill to discuss bridge sidewalk snow removal

  • Footprints in the snow covering the sidewalk of the Turners Falls-Gill Bridge, better know as the Gill-Montague bridge, early this month. The roadway is plowed by the Department of Transportation, the sidewalk is shoveled by no one. The plow pictured belongs to a private contractor not involved in the sidewalk situation.<br/>Recorder Chris Curtis

    Footprints in the snow covering the sidewalk of the Turners Falls-Gill Bridge, better know as the Gill-Montague bridge, early this month. The roadway is plowed by the Department of Transportation, the sidewalk is shoveled by no one. The plow pictured belongs to a private contractor not involved in the sidewalk situation.
    Recorder Chris Curtis

  • Mike Mascho of Turners Falls in the kitchen of the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Gill. Mascho walks to work across the Turners Falls - Gill Bridge, sometimes in the road due to the un-shoveled state of the bridge sidewalk.<br/>Recorder Chris Curtis

    Mike Mascho of Turners Falls in the kitchen of the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Gill. Mascho walks to work across the Turners Falls - Gill Bridge, sometimes in the road due to the un-shoveled state of the bridge sidewalk.
    Recorder Chris Curtis

  • Lynn Pelland of Turners Falls doesn't walk accross the bridge but feels the option is important.<br/>Recorder Chris Curtis

    Lynn Pelland of Turners Falls doesn't walk accross the bridge but feels the option is important.
    Recorder Chris Curtis

  • Footprints in the snow covering the sidewalk of the Turners Falls-Gill Bridge, better know as the Gill-Montague bridge, early this month. The roadway is plowed by the Department of Transportation, the sidewalk is shoveled by no one. The plow pictured belongs to a private contractor not involved in the sidewalk situation.<br/>Recorder Chris Curtis
  • Mike Mascho of Turners Falls in the kitchen of the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Gill. Mascho walks to work across the Turners Falls - Gill Bridge, sometimes in the road due to the un-shoveled state of the bridge sidewalk.<br/>Recorder Chris Curtis
  • Lynn Pelland of Turners Falls doesn't walk accross the bridge but feels the option is important.<br/>Recorder Chris Curtis

GILL — The Gill Selectboard will begin to look at the question of who should take responsibility for the Turners Falls-Gill Bridge sidewalk, and how.

The state-owned bridge spans the Connecticut River between the towns of Gill and Montague, and to all evidence no town or state department has ever taken responsibility for the pedestrian walkway.

Gill Town Administrator Ray Purington said he found a reference to a 1950 vote to form a committee to talk to the county commissioners about the problem, and no evidence the question was resolved.“So that didn’t fill me with hope and joy that this will be an easy slam-dunk type of situation.”

Finding a solution will likely be very complicated, he said.

The state Department of Transportation plows snow from the bridge roadway, but does not touch the sidewalk.

Montague’s Highway Department Superintendent has said he believes the DOT has relinquished responsibility for the sidewalk to the two towns, but his department isn’t interested in taking on the additional work and potential legal responsibility for throwing snow and salt into either the roadway or the river.

Purington said he hasn’t found anything indicating the towns are responsible for the sidewalk.

In recent years, the sidewalk was cleared by a Gill teenager, and later by the construction workers hired by the DOT to repair the bridge. The construction company shifted its efforts to the underside of the steel bridge this fall, and has not cleared the sidewalk this season.

A recent visit to the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Gill by the Route 2 bridge outlet on a Sunday afternoon found several people who noticed the change.

Rob LaClaire, 31, lives in Turners Falls and walks to work in the Wagon Wheel kitchen. This is his second winter walking the bridge, and he recalls that last year someone kept the walkway clear.

LaClaire said he has slipped a couple of times crossing the bridge this year, although he hasn’t fallen yet.

“It’s just bad. I don’t understand it,” LaClaire said.

Colleague Mike Mascho, 29, also walks to work in the Wagon Wheel kitchen and has the same complaint.

“I care about it a lot because I have to walk across it every day,” Mascho said.

Mascho said he is blind in one eye and has no peripheral vision, so he doesn’t drive, and half the time he is forced to walk in the road to cross the bridge. He said he has brought the issue up with his selectman, Michael Nelson.

In the dining room, Turners Falls resident Lynn Pelland, 46, said she doesn’t cross the bridge on foot, but feels it should be possible.

“I don’t walk it but I definitely care about it because I know a lot of people do and it keeps the connection between Turners Falls and Gill, especially the Wagon Wheel,” Pelland said.

Today at 5:30 p.m.

Discussion of the sidewalk situation is on the agenda for the Gill Selectboard meeting today at 5:30 p.m. in the Town Hall, 325 Main Road.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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