Middlebury gears up for busy construction season

MIDDLEBURY — As the snow and ice slowly recede from view, the town of Middlebury will turn its attention to a laundry list of public infrastructure projects aimed at repaving some local roads, upgrading the municipal water and sewerage systems, and replacing two prominent downtown railroad overpasses.
The most massive project will, of course, involve the installation of a concrete tunnel that will supplant the deteriorating rail overpasses on Merchants Row and Main Street. The estimated $17 million undertaking is expected to span two construction seasons and involve some traffic detours and temporary inconveniences for downtown merchants and shoppers. Middlebury residents agreed on Town Meeting Day to contribute up to $500,000 to the project, which was to have been covered entirely by state and federal funds. The added expense relates to the tunnel scheme, which will create some extra surface area in the downtown by filling in the now-vacant space between Triangle Park and the town green.
Contractors in recent months have been sizing up the job, but one thing remains clear, according to local Project Manager Bill Finger. Construction will not start as soon as originally planned.
“It’s going to be later than the previously published April start date,” Finger said. “We are anticipating this sometime this summer. It’s an incredibly complex job.”
Indeed, the project will include displacing various utilities and deepening a railroad track bed that is very close to the sometimes volatile Otter Creek. Pre-cast concrete tunnel sections will need to be installed on-site. And Vermont Rail has expectations of maintaining some train traffic through the duration of the project.
Here are some of the latest developments in what will be one of the biggest downtown infrastructure projects in recent Middlebury history:
•  Right-of-way plans and easements are being finalized and submitted to the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) for review and approval.
•  Middlebury’s appraiser will soon begin meeting with affected property owners to discuss the project’s impacts.
•  Organizers continue to work with Addison County Transit Resources to find a new bus stop to replace the Merchants Row location.
•  An additional survey will be completed in the coming weeks to assist in finalizing drainage, rail alignments and right-of-way impacts within the project limits.
•  Geotechnical testing has been performed on existing rock cores at the construction site. Additional subsurface exploration may or may not be needed depending on the final design and construction approaches.
•  The design team is continuing to evaluate and finalize the horizontal rail alignment, tunnel dimensions and support of excavation to reduce right-of-way impacts on the nearby Bourbon building and the Battell Block driveway.
Those interested in the project are encouraged to check out the town of Middlebury’s Web site (www.townofmiddlebury.org) for updates, as well as follow the Addison Independent’s ongoing coverage.
In a related development, the town has applied to the state for a $100,000 transportation grant that could reduce the $500,000 local outlay for the overpasses that Middlebury voters OK’d on March 4. Finger said VTrans is expected to make a decision on the town’s grant application sometime in mid-May.
Meanwhile, Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner outlined some other local projects that will get under way this spring and summer. The most extensive of these will involve utility and street improvements to Water Street, beginning at Cross Street and extending to Charles Avenue.
“Water main replacement is the major component,” Werner said of the Water Street work that will begin this summer. Plans call for 1,420 feet of replacement water main. The street will be moved slightly east to improve the approach to Cross Street. Storm sewer infrastructure will be installed on both sides of the street, while a new sidewalk is to be added on the west side of the street. The $547,130 construction job will also include new asphalt paving.
Werner explained the new water main is intended to close a loop in the municipal water system at the Water Street location. This is expected to provide for better municipal water flow in that area and to provide some redundancy within the system as it crosses the Otter Creek. It’s an undertaking that has been on the to-do list since around 2008, according to Werner, but has been delayed — largely due to the now-completed Cross Street Bridge project.
Also on Middlebury’s spring/summer work agenda:
•  Replacement of two culverts on Cady Road.
•  Approximately 3,000 feet of Seminary Street Extension will be recycled and paved from just east of East Road to the intersection of Quarry Road and Foote Street. A few culverts will be replaced in this section, too.
•  Around 1,500 feet of Middle Road, west of Court Street, will be recycled and paved.
•  The town water department plans to replace the water main along Pulp Mill Bridge Road and Otter Creek Lane, and has solicited proposals from engineering firms to design that work.
Also out to prospective engineers: The planned replacement of sanitary sewerage pipe from Weybridge Street, underneath the Otter Creek, to the town’s main pump station off Lucius Shaw Lane. This will involve, among other things, boring a new (plastic) pipe under the Otter Creek. The current pipe is steel and is actually sitting at the bottom of the creek, according to Werner.
“Some of (the pipe) is undermined,” Werner said. “It conveys wastewater from west of the Otter Creek to the main pump station.”
Werner has also been closely monitoring his department’s winter maintenance budget for roads, which is currently around $18,000 in the red. This is primarily due to increased salt applications due to the aggressive winter, along with having to contract out for more snow removal services, which Werner said became particularly necessary in wake of a fire that claimed one of the department’s plow trucks.
Personnel-related cost savings within the public works department will mitigate some of the $18,000 shortfall, according to Werner.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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