By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s more than 50-year quest to develop a second in-town bridge will become more than mere lines on paper later this month when construction teams begin erecting the first of two piers that will support the new span that will link Main Street with Court Street across the Otter Creek, via Cross Street.
Municipal officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony off Cross Street, near Mister Ups Restaurant, this Tuesday, April 14, at 4 p.m. The gathering is expected to feature a large cadre of town and college officials, member of the Better Middlebury Partnership business association, and leaders of the construction team charged with completing the project by the fall of 2010.
The $16 million project will kick off in around a week with construction of the bridge pier on the west side of the Otter Creek, near Mister Ups.
“That will be the main starting point,” said Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner. Cross Street-area residents and business owners should brace for around six days of noise and temporary parking challenges around April 20. That’s when crews will begin pile-driving the supports for the west pier and part of the bridge foundation.
“There might be some temporary interruptions (in traffic flow), as they are bringing equipment and supplies in,” Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger said.
Finger stressed that the Cross Street Bridge project is not expected to result in a net loss of parking in downtown Middlebury, though some spaces will be lost when the Steele’s Service Center building is razed this summer to make room for the bridge approach. That property currently serves as an extra municipal parking lot. Nine of those spots are expected to survive the project, according to Finger.
Excavation for the second pier – on the eastern side of the creek — is scheduled to begin next month.
This summer, crews will erect a temporary staging point from which the 240-foot center span of the bridge will be installed. The bridge, when built, will be 480 feet long from end to end, including the 240-foot-long center span and the two, 120-foot end spans.
The initial work isn’t expected to disrupt traffic flow, and indeed, local officials don’t anticipate major detours or delays until next spring. That’s because construction crews want to substantially complete the bridge before work begins in earnest on the two intersections: One, a roundabout that will route traffic at the confluence of Bakery Lane, Cross, Main, Park and College streets; and the other, a new signalized intersection at Cross and Court streets.
The project will also include a new connector road (and additional parking) behind the municipal building. It will provide the southeast-bound link from College Street to Main Street; College Street from the new rotary west for a few hundred feet will be one-way going toward Middlebury College.
Middlebury’s bridge design-build team consists of Kubricky Construction Corp., GeoDesign Inc., J.P. Carrara & Sons and VHB Pioneer. All four firms have a presence in the region; and only J.P. Carrara — which has a background in manufacturing pre-cast concrete bridges — is based in Middlebury. VHB Pioneer is based in North Ferrisburgh.
Municipal officials are pleased to see the project move to construction after many years of discussing it in the abstract.
“It’s really amazing we’re actually going to be doing it,” Finger said. “We owe a big thanks to the college… and to the people of the town for sticking with it and backing it up.”
The college is contributing $9 million to the project costs, while Middlebury residents OK’d the remaining $7 million through a 1-percent local option tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol.
“I definitely think this is something the town will be pleased with after it is done,” Finger said.