Opinion: Delays plague rail bridges project

The town made its voice heard as to what it wants to see replacing the current bridges. Great! Then we see three or four delays in start of construction over the span of two years, before the town even gets decent details as to the actual size and scope of the project. I am just as angry as anyone in town over that deception. I think it’s good that all parties have stepped back to re-evaluate the situation. However, given my previous experience, I want to urge the municipal, state and federal parties involved to not drag their feet any further in this process.
It’s good to fight for the survival of our downtown while working to improve it. Please don’t let the situation get worse before it gets better. I would not be surprised if these two vital downtown structures’ days are more numbered than we expect. I agree with another recent comment that we should probably have an emergency plan in place before something catastrophic happens.
I wrote those words in a letter to the editor of this newspaper nearly a year ago. Now it seems we are still having the same discussion. We have had one or two more delays and don’t seem much closer to a conclusion to this dilemma. I do applaud the town for continuing to push for a better outcome. I cannot help but feel this should have been pushed for earlier in the process, when we had the first agreement. The bottom line is that the project will be happening at some point in the coming years, and will cause a lot of disruption for a couple of years. It will be hard on all of us when the time comes.
In the meantime, I think the town of Middlebury, ACTR and any other necessary organizations should move ahead with efforts to move the bus hub away from this danger zone. We don’t know how long these bridges will hold up, and government standards don’t always stop catastrophes from happening. I experienced this with the Champlain Bridge several years ago. It would be best to mitigate possible losses by moving forward with this element of the project sooner than later.
Another part of the proposed project that greatly troubles me is the drainage system into the Otter Creek. There are chemicals in the pieces used to make the railroad tracks that I don’t feel should be going into any water source. Then there is the manual cutoff point to stop hazardous material from entering the creek. I cannot help but feel that in a disaster situation, that step might get overlooked for a while. Otherwise, by the time someone can get to the cutoff point (if at all) some of the material would have already entered the creek and the damage would already be done. I would like to think that in the 21st century we might be able to do a little better than a hand crank at the edge of a beautiful natural resource. Plus, once the cutoff is closed, how can we be certain the hazardous material will not overflow into other parts of our landscape and town?
Ian Ross

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