Rt. 125 bridge in East Middlebury is open

EAST MIDDLEBURY — The opening of the Sand Hill Bridge on Route 125 in East Middlebury was celebrated on Wednesday evening, July 23. A canopy of multicolored umbrellas covered the enthusiastic crowd that gathered to hear the speakers. Jim Douglas, former governor of Vermont, made introductory remarks concerning the fact that a replacement bridge had been under consideration since 1985. Past bridge plans called for a 2-year project and the building of a temporary bridge that would have impacted the gorge swimming area. When the project finally started in April, the bridge was closed to traffic for fewer than 45 days.
Gov. Douglas introduced Sue Minter, deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation; Gregory Goodrich from the engineering firm VHB; Brian Emmons from the contractor T. Buck Construction; and Jason Larocque who is currently serving as the chair of the Prudential Committee of Fire District No. 1, East Middlebury. Each of these people thanked those who worked with them to make the bridge building a successful event. These included J.P. Carrara, Champlain Construction, F.W. Whitcomb Paving, American Flagging and Traffic Control, F.Y. Lafayette, and VTrans personnel.
By the conclusion of the speakers’ presentations and ribbon cutting, it was raining steadily. The planned parade was reduced to the Shriner Mini-cars, arranged for by Oakley Palmer and under the direction of Tom Bowen. The student riders from Pam Lafave’s horse farm were unable to attend. The four local residents who had formed a band under the direction of Michele McHugh relocated to the porch of the Waybury Inn instead of riding on Eric Murray’s truck. The band played lively renditions of “Down by the Riverside” and “When the Saints Come Marching In.” Dana Flanders’ paper banner was hung in the dining room of the inn instead of being carried in the rain with the help of Alex Shashok.
It was a damp but cheerful group that gathered back at the Waybury Inn for refreshments provided by the inn, supplemented with cookies from residents of Ripton. The East Middlebury and Ripton historical societies provided posters with information about the Sand Hill Bridge, the gorge recreation area and the Center Turnpike to Ripton. Louis Megyesi displayed his painting of the gorge area/bridge in the four different seasons. VHB had a PowerPoint presentation of the bridge building and provided lovely printed souvenirs of the celebration event.
Town of Middlebury officials were instrumental in making arrangements for the event. Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay and her assistant, Beth Dow, handled invitations, the road closing permit, and the ceremonies at the bridge. Police Chief Tom Hanley provided traffic control and suggested that the event continue as scheduled in spite of the threat of rain. Eric Eriksen and his helpers from the Ripton Fire Department, as well as Max Mayone, Kevin Bristol and Steve Peabody, volunteered to work with traffic control. Ripton selectperson Laureen Cox and Peggy Peabody, clerk of the fire district, worked together on the initial planning.
Besides the residents of East Middlebury and Ripton and the dignitaries, there was a large representation from VHB, VTrans and Champlain Construction. The final paving was completed the day of the celebration and there was still some caulking work being finished under the bridge. Given that it took 30 years to replace a 90-year-old bridge, all involved consider the project to be a wonderful success.

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