Letter to the editor: Ask hard questions at upcoming rail bridge forum

In response to George Dorsey’s letter to the editor (Addison Independent, Oct. 20), I want to commend the efforts of Mr. Dorsey and our many citizens who are working to safeguard Middlebury during the upcoming rail and bridge project.
The Main Street and Merchants Row bridges need to be replaced. We can all agree on that. We can probably also agree that the safety of the downtown rail corridor needs to be addressed. How and when is the issue.
In August, the Middlebury selectboard charged VTrans with going back to the drawing board to develop a new plan with one overriding goal: to reduce the street-level impact on Middlebury’s downtown to one construction season. VTrans has come back with a plan that replaces both bridges in 10 weeks in Summer 2019. To get there, a lot of prep work has to be done. To suggest that the construction activity planned for 2017-2020 will cripple life in Middlebury, however, is unfounded.
I encourage all who have concerns about this project to attend a public meeting at Town Hall Theater on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. Come to the meeting and listen to VTrans explain its plan for the project. Find out why VTrans believes the bridges cannot be replaced at grade and how it plans to keep the bridges safe and open until they are replaced in 2019. Ask hard questions. Then judge for yourself whether the project plan seems reasonable and whether VTrans deserves Middlebury’s trust.
Once VTrans finalizes design plans for the project later this year, the town will consult with an independent engineering firm that can provide unbiased feedback on the project plan.
I look forward to seeing you on Nov. 17 and to engaging in a candid and forthright discussion on these important issues. In the meantime, please forward any questions you would like addressed at the meeting to Middlebury’s Local Project Liaison, Jim Gish, at [email protected].
Brian Carpenter
Chair, Middlebury Selectboard

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