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'Big Dig,' Midd-style: Bridge-related road work starts April 5

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Posted on April 1, 2010 |
By John Flowers



web_bridge2.jpg
THE CROSS STREET Bridge project will enter a new phase on April 5 when work on surrounding roads is scheduled to begin. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

MIDDLEBURY — Construction on the Cross Street Bridge project will begin to spill into the center of downtown Middlebury beginning on Monday, April 5, when road and utilities work will kick into overdrive and create some slower going for traffic in some locations through the early fall.

Work on the $16 million project has, until now, been largely confined to sections of Cross Street and Bakery Lane near the Otter Creek, where the enormous span is taking shape.

But that will change on Monday, most markedly with the start of construction of a new connector road between the Middlebury municipal building and Middlebury College’s Twilight Hall. The new road — to be called Academy Street — will link College and Main streets. Workers will first relocate some of the water and sewer lines in the area before laying the new road, which will be one-way (headed east) and feature parallel parking on its southern border (closest to Twilight Hall). A new parking lot will be built between the new Academy Street and the municipal building. This will require removal of the steps on the south side of the building, resulting in the temporary loss of an exit from the municipal gym.

“The existing exits meet state requirements,” Cross Street Bridge project Manager David Hallam stressed during a Monday interview at the Addison Independent.

Also on April 5, crews will move into the next phase of major water, sewer and electrical infrastructure upgrades on Cross, Water, South Pleasant streets and Charles Avenue. Central Vermont Public Service Corp. will be installing new utility poles, then a contractor will begin replacing the water and sewer mains. All of this work must be completed by May 30, as plans call for general contractor Kubricky Construction to begin reconstruction on Cross Street in June. The aforementioned work will require closing the intersection of South Pleasant Street and Cross Street, and the intersection of Water Street and Cross Street.

Because of these intersection closures:

• Access to Cross Street will be limited to residents and businesses living or operating on that street.

• Access to the Village Plaza (Aubuchon Hardware, Kinney Drug, Subway and UPS) will be confined to Court Street.

• Residents of Water Street and Charles Avenue will need to use Charles Avenue to exit onto Court Street.

• South Pleasant Street will become a dead-end. There will be no access onto Cross Street.

Project coordinators announced that starting the second week of April, some of the utility work will occur at night, from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m., Sunday through Friday, until this phase of construction is completed (estimated May 7).

“The work has been scheduled to take place at night in an effort to minimize adverse impacts on parking, traffic flow and business in general,” said Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger. “Unfortunately, construction noise has an impact at night on nearby residents on both sides of Otter Creek. We have asked Engineer’s Construction Inc. (ECI) to direct night lighting away from residences as much as possible and to minimize vehicle and equipment noise. Unfortunately the ‘beep-beep’ of back-up alarms, that many folks find most annoying, is required by federal and state safety regulations.”

Hallam said that in mid-May, workers will beginning widening the east side of College Street (which will become one-way headed in the direction of the college campus). New diagonal parking will be introduced on the expanded side of College Street.

Arguably the biggest change in downtown Middlebury’s streetscape for a century will begin in late June, when crews will begin fashioning the new roundabout intersection that will link Main, Cross, Park and College streets. In order to preserve through-traffic, workers will first fashion the eastern half of the roundabout, then the western half. Work on this major traffic nexus will likely last into September, according to Hallam.

Work this summer will also focus on the intersection of Cross and Court streets. Work on that signalized intersection is to occur around August, according to Hallam.

The bridge itself will continue to take shape as the road work is being done, Hallam stressed. Once box beams are installed between the piers and abutments of the new span, crews will be able to work on the surface of the bridge.

“We want to get this (entire project) done no later than Nov. 1,” Hallam said.

Hallam expects several local subcontractors will be hired to share in the work.

“It has been emphasized to Kubricky Construction that we want to use as many local contractors as possible,” Hallam said.

Local officials said they are aware of the impact the arduous construction timetable could have on downtown businesses and commuters.

“We have focused on how we could get this done in a way that would minimize disruption to the downtown to the greatest extent possible,” said Selectman Dean George, chairman of the town’s bridge committee.

KEEP SHOPPERS IN TOWN

By staggering work and opening up new parking opportunities as old ones shut down, project organizers hope to keep shoppers in Middlebury.

“Patience is certainly going to be required,” said selectboard Chairman John Tenny. “It will be slower going… and parking will be in shorter supply.

“We beg the forbearance of people as we work our way through the summer,” he added.

One business that has been particularly hard hit by the construction work is Mister Up’s Restaurant on Bakery Lane. The restaurant is located right next to the project staging area by the Otter Creek. This past Saturday, a mishap with utility work in the Bakery Lane area resulted in the restaurant temporarily losing water service. The town compensated Mister Up’s to the tune of $5,200, according to Tenny.

Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) President Sarah Stahl said downtown business owners are very concerned about how the road work might swallow up some parking, particularly during the usually busy summer months.

“I do think it is going to impact our area greatly,” Stahl said.

“There is concern, but there has been a real good dialogue between Middlebury officials and the BMP.”

In an effort to keep residents, shoppers and commuters well-informed, the town will post regular updates on its municipal Web site (www.middlebury.govoffice.com) and in the Addison Independent. Bulletin boards near the project site will also keep passersby informed of the latest developments, according to George.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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