Highland Park dug itself out from under an accumulated six inches of snow on Tuesday, Feb. 17. As the children enjoyed a day off from school, residents not only walked gingerly around town, but were particularly careful – and angry – as they traipsed across the bridge to and from New Brunswick.
Children took to their usual pursuits around the borough, in the light of a snow day declared early Tuesday. Temperatures were expected to peak at 29 degrees by 3 p.m. Tuesday and holding fairly steady through Thursday, with only moderate drops from daytime into nighttime. Temperatures on Thursday and Friday were forecast with highs in the mid-20s and lows in the single digits.
Although the chill has hung over the borough for days now, there have been no reported incidents of frozen pipes or power failures. That comes in sharp contrast to the unpleasantness of last winter. During a similarly frigid span, dozens of homes in Highland Park were left without heat or electric power due to problems with the electric grid at a power substation in Edison owned by Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G).
As a precaution, the borough made arrangements with Reformed Church of Highland Park to serve as a warming center, if last winter’s events repeated themselves.
“In anticipation of the freezing cold and the wind, we did move our backup generator closer to the senior center,” said Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler. “We thankfully didn’t have any problems.”
If the cold isn’t enough, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly predicts Highland Park could receive more snow Wednesday, though thankfully only a half-inch or so. There is a possibility of flurries heading into Thursday.
The flurries and extra dusting due Wednesday aren’t likely to pose much additional challenge, but for those who like to walk across the bridge into New Brunswick, the load already there isn’t likely to put a spring in their step. The snow is well past ankle-deep, and while the foot action does press it down, all that trudging just makes the walk icier and more treacherous.
The bad news is, no one is taking responsibility for it. Route 27 is a state highway, and the state Department of Transportation keeps the street plowed, but it does not send workers to clear the sidewalks.
Neither does New Brunswick.
“The city does not perform snow removal on the bridge,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, a spokeswoman for New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill. “It is … the state’s jurisdiction.”
And what does Highland Park do?
“We have spoken to the DOT,” said Mayor Brill Mittler. “They say they are responsible for the street.”
In the lack of a clear resolution, Mayor Brill Mittler says crews from the Highland Park Department of Public Works clear the sidewalks to the midpoint of the bridge, but go no further, from a desire to avoid “trespassing” onto New Brunswick’s side.
She added: “It is something we have to take care of one way or the other.” But how to take care of the issue remains elusive.