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4: Cross St. Bridge takes shape

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Middlebury’s much-discussed $16 million Cross Street Bridge project moved from the drawing board to actual construction in 2009. With bond approval and financing through Middlebury College and a series of local option taxes, initial work in April keyed on the two massive concrete piers that would support the 240-foot long span across the Otter Creek in downtown Middlebury.

During the summer, crews tore down two homes on the eastern side of the creek and the former Steele’s Service Center building on the west side to make way for roads leading to the coming span. They then created a temporary staging point in the Otter Creek on which some temporary steel piers were erected. Then, during the fall, trucks brought in some massive concrete girders to form the deck foundation for the new bridge. The girders — prefabricated at Middlebury-based J.P. Carrara & Sons — ranged in length from 65 feet to 108 feet and weighed in excess of 100,000 bounds. People line up on Main Street to view the girder procession through downtown Middlebury, on a route that crossed a special “jump bridge” that had to be erected across the deteriorating railroad overpass on Merchants Row on Nov. 30.

Once hauled to the site, workers used a crane to hoist the girders into place atop the temporary piers. The piers will be extracted from the Otter Creek after the girders are pulled into place using a post-tensioning process.

Construction-related activities posed a hardship on some downtown businesses, particularly Mister Up’s Restaurant, which saw its receipts dive as parking became more challenging in the Bakery Lane area. But most businesses appeared to weather the construction storm relatively well, as evidenced by a yield on local option tax receipts that proved robust enough to more than cover the town’s share of the first year of the 30-year bridge debt.

Major operations were slated to go on hiatus until spring of 2010, when construction crews are slated to begin work on the two major intersections feeding into the bridge: a roundabout that will route traffic at the confluence of Bakery Lane, Cross, Main, Park and College streets; and a new signalized convergence at Cross and Court streets.

The project will also include a new connector road (and additional parking) behind the municipal building, which 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.

If all goes according to plan, project organizers said traffic will be flowing across the new span by this coming Thanksgiving.

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