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Massena rail crossing work nearing completion

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MASSENA - State Route 420 was once again closed to traffic for a portion of Wednesday afternoon, but that should be it, according to New York State Department of Transportation officials.

At Tuesday’s village Board of Trustees meeting, officials complained that the closure of Route 420 due to CSX rail crossing work earlier that afternoon was unexpected, snarled traffic and compromised fire protection on the south side of the Raquette River.

Fire department officials said they had been prepared for a brief closure at midday Tuesday, but were caught off guard by the late afternoon rerouting of one of Massena’s busiest streets and the village’s only bridge over the Raquette River, which is in close proximity to the on-going rail crossing work.

DOT spokesman Michael Flick said 420 was shut from 3:50 p.m. to 5:10 Tuesday, and closed again early Wednesday afternoon. At 2 p.m. Wednesday, DOT staff were seen rerouting traffic at Main and Hatfield streets.

Route 420 had reopened by 3 p.m.; later that afternoon, DOT flaggers were shutting down traffic for five minutes at a time to finish necessary rail crossing work, Mr. Flick said.

Motorists needing to cross the Raquette River during the longer closure times had to find another way, either 7 miles west, at Route 56 near Raymondville, or 5.5 miles east, at the Route 37C bridge.

Mr. Flick said the late afternoon closure Tuesday was a last-minute change.

“The closure deviated from the agreed upon plan ... from what I understand, when the rail crews arrived to do the work yesterday, they felt that it couldn’t be done as was planned and that it was necessary to close the area,” Mr. Flick said in an email.

“We (DOT) then scrambled to accommodate and have done our best to make adjustments and to make notifications on such short notice. I have spoken a number of times with one of the local school transportation directors ... and the DOT foreman there has spent more than a little while reaching out to the other local schools and everyone he could to let them know there was a change, and that effort continues,” he said.

Work on the rail crossing will wrap up on Friday, Mr. Flick said. The DOT will use its originally planned detour route, which takes motorists immediately around the construction site, for today and tomorrow and does not expect total road shutdowns either of the final two days.

Volunteer Fire Department Chief Thomas C. Miller had previously said the continued closure of the 420 bridge could present concerns for fire protection. He learned Wednesday that the DOT could get a fire truck across the construction site within a few minutes even if 420 was closed.

Mr. Miller said he also put Norfolk and Helena’s Volunteer Fire Departments on standby to ensure the portion of the village south of the Raquette had adequate fire protection this week.

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