MIDDLEBURY — The $16 million Cross Street Bridge project continues to chug toward completion in downtown Middlebury, with the new roundabout intersection taking shape on Main Street and the new span’s superstructure now in place and ready for railings and lights.
Project directors are so optimistic of an on-schedule finish that they are already looking ahead to a grand unveiling celebration on Oct. 30 that will feature, among other things, a fireworks display, entertainment and a “first vehicle over the bridge” ceremony.
“We’re really in the home stretch,” project manager David Hallam said this week. “Every day you go down there (to the project site) there is something new going on. People are working really hard.”
Here are some of the imminent/completed construction highlights since Labor Day:
• Completion of the installation of the protective waterproofing membrane on the bridge deck that made way for the first of two layers of asphalt pavement. Other paving work included a final layer of asphalt on Cross Street, from South Pleasant Street to Court Street, including the milled areas on Court Street.
• Painting of the center yellow lines and white shoulder lines on the completed portion of Cross Street from Pleasant Street to Court Street.
• Installation of the cobblestone pavers to complete the Main Street roundabout, along with excavation and sub-base for the western lane of the roundabout, between Park and College streets.
• Installation of curbing along the realigned Bakery Lane access roadway from Cross Street, along with final grading of the Bakery Lane access road from Cross Street followed by asphalt paving of the base layer.
• Relocation of a wooden outbuilding structure at Mr. Ups Restaurant for excavation and grading of additional Bakery Lane realignment.
• Installation of curbs and sidewalks along Main Street between Park and College streets and the paving of the western roundabout traffic lane. Plans call for a light pole, with plantings, to initially be places in the center of the roundabout. An ad hoc committee is looking into possibilities for a permanent structure there.
• Installation of light poles and fixtures along the new Academy Street (behind the municipal building) and in the vicinity of the roundabout. Plans also called for excavation and backfilling for the “splitter islands” that direct traffic approaches to the roundabout.
“We are right on schedule,” Hallam said on Monday. “By the end of this week, they are going to open up Cross Street to traffic again. That will be another nice piece completed.”
He was sure the street will be open before the first Middlebury Union High School home football game Friday evening. This will allow for a second route for people going to and coming from the game.
Also by this weekend, Hallam expected traffic would no longer have to drive across the cobblestone portion of the roundabout periphery, and that vehicles would be negotiating a functioning roadway.
Hallam anticipates delivery of the bridge railings by Oct. 1, with final paving to be done in mid-October. Lighting on the bridge “will probably start in around three weeks,” Hallam said, adding it appears as though the bridge project will come in on budget.
The sidewalk in front of Two Brothers, which was narrowed during construction, will end up no narrower than it was before construction and to the right of the main door it will be wider, according to Town Planner Fred Dunnington.
The utility lines that stretch across Main Street over the roundabout from the Two Brothers building across to the Counseling Service of Addison County building will not be buried, Hallam said. Doing so would have added substantially to the cost of the project. Cost was the reason more of the lines weren’t buried, Hallam explained.
“If they had gone full bore to burying lines in the area it would have added $2 million-$3 million to the project,” he said.
Meanwhile, Town Hall Theater Executive Director Douglas Anderson is spearheading the planned Oct. 30 opening ceremony, which will coincide with the Better Middlebury Partnership’s annual “Spooktacular” event in the downtown.
Anderson anticipates a special event on Oct. 29, followed by day-long festivities on the bridge. Tentatively, the slate of activities is to include a dance, a tent for local food and beverage vendors, entertainment with local performers, and a fireworks show — complete with illumination of the new span. The parade of children in costume for the annual Spooktacular celebration is timed to end at bridge during the Oct. 30 celebration.
“Only once every 100 years does the town celebrate a new bridge,” Anderson said. The previous, major bridge project in Middlebury occurred in 1893. That’s when the Battell Bridge on Main Street opened. Celebration organizers are talking to officials at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History about the prospect of allowing a facsimile of the first buggy to cross the Battell Bridge to make that same inaugural voyage over the Cross Street Bridge.
The Addison Independent will publish further details of the celebration as they become finalized.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.