Local officials ask state to allow Middlebury rail bridges project to proceed now

Project boosters have been hoping to resume work sooner, at a time when the downtown is relatively inactive due to coronavirus restrictions.

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard has asked state officials to designate the currently suspended downtown Middlebury rail bridges project as a “critical infrastructure” job, which would allow construction to resume without further delay.

Plans originally called for a March 30 start for replacement of the Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges with a 360-foot-long concrete tunnel. But that date was pushed back to April 15 as a result of Gov. Phil Scott’s coronavirus-related “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order that took effect on March 25.

Project boosters have been hoping to resume work sooner, at a time when the downtown is relatively inactive due to coronavirus restrictions. They made an official pitch to state officials on Thursday, April 2, according to Jim Gish, Middlebury’s liaison to the rail bridges project.

“By Thursday, mindful of the economic consequences to Middlebury of a lengthy project delay, the Middlebury selectboard had asked the state to designate the Rail & Bridge Project as ‘critical infrastructure’ and to allow the project to resume operations — provided that Kubricky, its subcontractors, Vermont Rail, and the (Agency of Transportation) put in place and rigorously monitored the highest possible standards of protection for construction contractors, rail crews, and for our community,” Gish wrote in the most recent post on his project blog.

“The formal request, submitted to the secretary of transportation for consideration by the governor’s office, is supported by letters from (project contractor) Kubricky and Vermont Rail detailing the steps each would take to manage the health risks of resuming construction. Our friends at Neighbors Together lent their voice to the request as well.

“As we’ve seen on both the world stage and here in Vermont, there is no easy solution to balancing the economic consequences of a shutdown with the urgent need to flatten the curve of the virus,” he added. “I’ll keep you fully up to date as this process unfolds and as decisions get made.”

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Addison County Independent