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Middlebury railroad project delayed

MIDDLEBURY — Replacement work on the railroad overpasses on Merchants Row and Main Street in downtown Middlebury has been pushed back to next spring, in light of some design changes and logistical challenges associated with the $18 million project.
But some preliminary work associated with the plan is still expected to take place this year, specifically that related to drainage for the rail bed, relocation of the Addison County Transit Resources bus stop on Merchants Row and construction of a temporary access to the Battell Block parking lot, according to local project Manager Bill Finger.
Work had been slated to begin as soon as this spring on replacing the two deteriorating rail spans with a concrete tunnel that will provide the added amenity of more green space next to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Festival on-the-Green organizers decided to relocate their annual entertainment showcase to the town’s recreation park near Mary Hogan Elementary School in anticipation of downtown construction work.
But Finger explained that contractors and engineers have taken a closer look at the project and determined it is a more complicated undertaking than originally conceived. For example, the work will have to be done in a manner that guarantees the ongoing, twice-a-day freight train traffic. Finger said engineers have since recommended some design changes that could allow the tunnel to become narrower in a manner that might preserve the Bourdon building (former home to Bud’s Barber Shop) at 44 Merchants Row.
Work thus far has included soil test borings and reaching out to area merchants and property owners who will be affected by the project, which will result in some temporary detours in downtown Middlebury. The work is expected to span two construction seasons.
The Independent will present a more comprehensive update on the story next week, following some key meetings scheduled to take place soon involving town officials, state transportation officials and contractors.
John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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