Construction will close Rt. 125 bridge for parts of April-June

EAST MIDDLEBURY — Construction crews are mobilizing heavy equipment for the upcoming replacement of the Sand Hill Bridge on Route 125 in East Middlebury, a project that contractors said will impose some short-term pain for neighbors and travelers in order to generate a finished product in a shorter period of time.
First erected in 1924, the Sand Hill Bridge is deteriorating and has been a candidate for replacement since 1984, according to Vermont Agency of Transportation’s (VTrans) Project Manager Jennifer Fitch, one of several officials who spoke at a public update on the project held at the Ilsley Library on Feb. 26.
The project is drawing a lot of scrutiny in East Middlebury and beyond, as construction will be disruptive. Plans call for Route 125 to be closed for 45 days, beginning on or around April 19, according to Brian Emmons, project manager for T Buck, the Maine-based contractor that’s been hired to do the work. This will mean major detours for travelers who use Route 125 to get to and from Ripton, Hancock and Route 100.
Motorists will be told by VTrans to make a 35-mile detour to Route 100 via Routes 7 and 73. State officials are not allowed to publicize other, more local detours. For area residents and emergency vehicles, the detour will mean using Upper Plains Road and Beaver Pond Road in Salisbury to get from Route 7 to Ripton.
“With accelerated construction, we generally see less impact on the traveling public, in terms of duration,” Fitch said. “There will be a high impact for a short period of time.”
Officials noted a more conventional bridge replacement process might maintain an open lane, but would present an inconvenience for a longer period and would cost more money.
Emmons said preconstruction work has begun at the site. Passersby have noticed the arrival of heavy equipment that will help workers build an access to the bridge for its removal and replacement. The current bridge is 20 feet, 6 inches wide. The new one will be 36 feet wide and will provide for two 11-foot-wide lanes, two shoulders and one 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the downstream side.
The inside of the bridge will be hollow, according to Fitch. It will be assembled in prefabricated concrete pieces in a manner that will not affect the geological, historical and recreational qualities of the site, she said. The bridge site has been home to a popular local swimming hole. An old mill once operated nearby. Neighbors have also asked that the construction work not take down area trees.
“We have reduced impacts to adjacent properties and the corridor,” Fitch said.
Fitch noted the Sand Hill Bridge replacement will be the first of six bridge projects scheduled for the region this year. The other work will affect four bridges on Route 73 in Rochester, and Bridge 166 on Route 100 in Warren. The Sand Hill Bridge must be done first in the sequence to preserve detours, according to VTrans officials. They conceded it is not ideal to do the work in the spring, when schools — including Middlebury College — are still in session. The college’s Bread Loaf campus is off Route 125 in Ripton.
Emmons outlined a work schedule that calls for equipment to be brought to the site by the end of this week. Work on the bridge access will proceed from roughly March 11 to 21. The water main extending over the bridge will be cut and capped on March 24. And plans call for Route 125 to be closed at the construction site on April 19.
Emmons served notice that the first seven days of work would be very loud for lengthy periods.
“You’ll probably be upset,” he told neighbors. “There will be a lot of banging, thrashing, crashing, breaking of concrete and backup alarms to get the demolition completed.
“We will do what we can to accommodate.”
He noted work would then get into the “construction mode.” The pre-cast concrete portions of the bridge are being made locally at J.P. Carrara & Sons and brought to the site, where they will be fitted together with the aid of some high-strength grout. It will be necessary to let the concrete cure at various intervals during construction.
An “enormous crane” on the East Middlebury side of the bridge will be used to help in the assembly of the span, according to Emmons.
If all goes well, the bridge will be opened to one-lane traffic on June 2, according to Emmons. Follow-up work is expected to continue at the site until Aug. 22.
Officials said they will keep the public update on the project through Facebook, Twitter and a website — http://rmw.vtransprojects.vermont.gov/bridge_projects/m_13/.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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