COVID guide: Entering a new era in Middlebury with hope
Six months have passed since Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency. Our community responded and has driven back COVID-19, to date experiencing the country’s lowest incidence even while finding our way back to dining and recreating. Throughout, we have abided by medical professional’s advice — focus on hygiene, maintain distance and wear masks when we can’t observe distance. Our essential workers proved we can function and live in this environment as long as we observe the necessary precautions and use common sense.
Now our schools and college begin session and it’s critical we not let our guard down. The Addison Independent is publishing this insert to help remind us all of the steps we’ve taken and need to sustain as well as the resources that are available within our community. Chief Hanley’s daily Emergency Management Update is a good read and has been excellent at informing us of the dynamic circumstances as well as clarifying social media rumors and sharing food for thought. If you don’t get it, I recommend you sign up for our town emails at townofmiddlebury.org.
I’m sensing our community is on the mend and, with hopes for a late 2020 vaccine, will begin to flourish again coincidental with the rebirth of our downtown. Yes, there is some good news on the horizon! On Friday, Sept. 18, following four seasons of construction, downtown Middlebury will reopen and a new era in in our town’s life will begin.
A rebuilt Main Street and Merchants Row will again see traffic flowing through the heart of downtown. Locals off to work and out to eat, visitors discovering what Middlebury has to offer, commercial traffic running back and forth to Exchange Street.
New crosswalks, lamp posts, and granite-curbed sidewalks will make it easier and safer to spend time downtown. And as constructions winds down, there will once again be abundant parking on Main Street and Merchants Row.
New water, sewer and stormwater drainage lines now run throughout central downtown. We’ve seen recently on Washington Street and Court Street the challenge of aging underground infrastructure.
And next spring two new parks will take their place in the center of town, adding green space, plaza-like hardscape, native plants and trees, and a labyrinth (courtesy of St. Stephen’s) to the downtown experience and creating new spaces for public events, family gatherings and just hanging out.
And also on Sept. 18, along some 3,600 feet of a rebuilt downtown rail corridor now safer and more environmentally sound, Vermont Rail will resume freight service on the western side of the state and a new rail tunnel — one of only two in Vermont — will carry products and materials to Vermont businesses, including several of our own.
This $75 million investment in the future of our town didn’t just happen. We, as a community, grappled with the need for the project and its potential and then worked hard to manage its impact on downtown and to put it to use as a springboard for thinking about our future.
Along the way we were reminded that partnerships based on a common understanding, purpose and trust are the most productive. In this regard, we have been fortunate to work with not only our own Neighbors Together but also some of the very best in the business at the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, VHB, and Kubricky and its subcontractors.
And so with this physical revitalization of downtown well underway — we’ll replace more Main Street sidewalks this fall, repave Court Street next year, and tackle those waterline breaks — it’s now time for us to focus on the task of revitalizing our business and cultural communities. And equally important — revitalize our own faith in our future.
Let’s not jeopardize this great news by ignoring the principals that allowed us to progress even in the face of COVID-19 adversity. Please read and heed the advice within. Let’s overcome the COVID fatigue and see this through until a vaccine is distributed. And please do what you can to support the revitalization of our town.