Top 10: Rail bridge project picks up speed
Construction on the $72.5 million downtown Middlebury Rail Bridges project hit a higher gear in 2019, with work aimed at preparing the site for a 10-week period during the spring/summer of 2020 when a 360-foot-long tunnel will be installed in place of the Main Street and Merchants Row spans.
The heaviest construction in 2019 took place below street level, within the rail corridor. Those living, working and shopping in the downtown heard periodic blasting within the rail bed, which was done in order to remove ledge. Work along the rail line involved driving 333 mini piles — long metal pipes — and 350 temporary metal sheets into the ground along the length of the project, which begins roughly 400 feet south of the Merchants Row bridge crossing, and ends at the northern most limits of the Marble Works property. These metal supports stabilized the rail bed slopes to receive the massive concrete tunnel that will be installed in sections this summer while Main Street and Merchants Row are closed to traffic. Vermont Railway freight trains will be diverted around Middlebury during the 10-week closure that begins in late May. During that period work in the construction site is scheduled to run 24 hours a day. seven days a week.
Those driving and walking through downtown Middlebury during the fall of 2019 got a taste of things to come. Construction-related noise, detours and loss of parking spots were among the inconveniences.
Main Street traffic was relegated to one lane for several days as two Kubricky Construction crews excavated below the blacktop to install two new sewer manholes — one directly in front of the National Bank of Middlebury’s Duclos Building and the other at the top of Printer’s Alley.
Folks from the Duclos Building south to Wild Mountain Thyme went a short time without water, as workers sorted out the underground network of water and sewer lines. Workers laid a new sewer line that runs from the bottom of Printer’s Alley; underneath Main Street, Triangle Park, and Merchants Row; and then down the Battell Building driveway.
It took a little longer for pedestrians to walk through the downtown, as a result of temporary detours around construction zones. Those walking between the National Bank and the Post Office were asked to follow a marked detour via Merchants Row and the town green. Those walking between Main Street and the Marble Works had to cross the pedestrian bridge over Otter Creek near Stone Mill, or use Seymour Street.
Local merchants persevered trough the 2019 disruption and realized it was a dress rehearsal for 2020, when construction hits overdrive. With that in mind, the community successfully applied for more than $200,000 in state grants to promote and market the town during the project. As part of that strategy, the pop-up events space “Bundle” moved into 51 Main St. to host a variety of events aimed at bringing people downtown.