MIDDLEBURY — Peak fall foliage is long gone, but folks traveling through downtown Middlebury during the next few weeks will see quite a sight in the form of a major man-made attraction that, unlike the changing leaves, won’t return next year.
Vehicles bearing huge concrete beams — ranging in size from 65 feet to 110 feet long — were scheduled to wind their way on massive trucks through portions of the downtown on their way to the new Cross Street Bridge site on Nov. 19 and 20, and again on Dec. 1, 2, 3 and 4.
It’s a major undertaking that will likely prompt a lot of stares and some traffic delays, though organizers have scheduled the move so that it does not coincide with the morning or afternoon rush hour periods. Nevertheless, in order to avoid any chance of a traffic snarl, the Middlebury public schools — Mary Hogan Elementary, Middlebury Union Middle School and Middlebury Union High School — will dismiss an hour early, at 2:05 p.m., on Thursday and Friday.
Once complete, the beam deliveries will form the deck foundation for the new $9 million in-town bridge over Otter Creek that will link Main Street to Court Street via Cross Street.
As the Addison Independent went to press, the town of Middlebury and J.P. Carrara & Sons — which is fabricating the concrete components of the bridge at its plant off Case Street — were finalizing details for the move that officials acknowledged will be unprecedented and temporarily disruptive to downtown circulation during the late morning and early afternoon hours.
“We ask (travelers and shoppers) for their patience; this is something that only happens once in a lifetime,” said Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger. “We hope that it does not cause any extensive delays.”
The moving of the beams will take place in two phases, according to Cross Street Bridge project manager David Hallam.
Phase one calls for the delivery of beams to the east side of bridge (across the Otter Creek from Mister Up’s Restaurant) on Nov. 19 and 20. The beams will leave the Carrara company yard on a 142-foot-long truck that will proceed south on Route 116 to Route 125, then west a half mile to Route 7 and north to the village. The truck will turn onto Charles Street, then onto Water Street and along the railroad track to a special access point for the project site. There, a 300-ton crane will hoist the beams and put them into place between the eastern pier at the side of the Otter Creek and temporary metal piers that have been erected in the middle of the creek.
Hallam noted that the beams are post-tension, pre-stressed concrete. They have been reinforced with steel rebar, noted Joe Carrara of J.P. Carrara & Sons.
A special permit issued for the work allows for the beam deliveries to start after 9 a.m., with the delivery of three beams per day, with 2.5 hours between each beam. Plans call for the last beam to be delivered to the site by 3 p.m.
The 65-foot girders each weigh 132,500 pounds; the 110-footers each weigh 185,000 pounds.
Carrara said the delivery truck will be accompanied by the requisite security/safety escorts. The rear turning mechanism of the large truck will be activated by remote control to allow it to safely negotiate corners.
“Negotiating of corners is something that has to be done slowly and carefully,” Carrara said, noting the company has a lot of experience in such moves. On Tuesday, Carrara shipped out some 140-foot-long girders to a different job site.
Once work is done on the eastern side of the creek, the second phase of the move will begin. That will first entail dismantling the 300-ton crane and reassembling it on the western end of the bridge (next to Mister Up’s).
Plans call for a special “jump bridge” to be erected across the railroad overpass on Merchants Row on Nov. 30. This jump bridge — with gravel approaches — will be needed in order to ensure that the weight of the beam-bearing truck does not directly come down on the railroad overpass, which is in poor condition and is slated to be replaced soon by Vermont Department of Transportation.
The beams are scheduled to leave Carrara on Dec. 1, 2, 3 and 4 for a trip that will again lead from Route 116, to Route 125 and onto Route 7 north. But the truck will this time proceed down the south side (the wrong way) of the Court Square rotary, then down Merchants Row, taking a left onto Main Street and then another left onto Bakery Lane to the construction site.
It should be noted that while the jump bridge is in place (during the week of Dec. 1), it will temporarily eliminate parking on the north side of Merchants Row. Officials are publicizing alternative parking at other municipal lots, such as off Mill Street.
The jump bridge is likely to only permit sporadic one-way traffic (east) on Merchants Row, so officials are recommending drivers avoid the street.
Parking on the west side of Main Street from Park Street to College Street will also be blocked off from 7 a.m. until the last beam is delivered on Dec. 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Once the beams arrive on the west side of the bridge, the crane will hoist them into place along the permanent and temporary piers. When all of the beams are in place, cable flowing through the beams will be pulled tight, raising them slightly above the temporary metal piers in the middle of the creek. This will allow work crews to remove the metal piers, leaving the connected beams to become suspended on their own.
“When this bridge is done, it will be the longest span of its construction in the country,” Hallam said.