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Creek Road study almost done: Report to address flooding issues

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury town officials will soon receive a report detailing their options for protecting Creek Road from perennial flooding from the adjacent Otter Creek — flooding that has resulted in the road being gated to through traffic for almost two years.
The most problematic (graveled) stretch of Creek Road extends roughly 1,500 feet from the Bingham Farm (which is south of the school playing fields and transportation facility) to the site of the former Three Mile Bridge (which is 2 miles northwest of Route 7 at the end of Three Mile Bridge Road), according to Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner.
A letter dated Nov. 29 from 11 Creek Road residents asks the selectboard to take steps to reopen the road. Resident Dean Rheaume, who spearheaded the letter, has questioned the need for the road to be closed and has argued the town missed an opportunity to repair the worst areas of erosion last fall.
Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay replied to Creek Road residents with a Dec. 2 letter stating “the town is working in good faith and with reasonable dispatch to determine the extent of erosion … (and) develop a series of options for the road, and identify potential funding sources for those options. Physical construction cannot begin until a feasible long-term solution has been fulfilled.”
Town officials made the decision to close Creek Road during the spring of 2015, citing “significant road erosion” along the banks of the Otter Creek. Town road Foreman Dale Hazzard estimated at the time that it could cost around $1.2 million to permanently stabilize the banks in the affected areas.
The town’s infrastructure committee met with neighbors in June of 2015 and decided to install a gate on the road near the Perrin property. Officials agreed to limit through travel to local farmers needing to tend to their crops. In the meantime, officials contacted the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Army Corps of Engineers for advice.
That summer, the town received funding through the Addison County Regional Planning Commission to complete an assessment of the erosion issues plaguing Creek Road. The commission hired Pathways Consulting LLC to complete that study.
Pathways delivered an initial report to the town last September. But local officials wanted more information and specific recommendations for addressing the problems plaguing the road. So Pathways was hired to complete a “Phase II” study that is due next month, according to Werner. That study, according to Pathways officials, will include “a clear and comprehensive analysis and recommendations on the available alternatives that will assist the project team more effectively with determining the next steps for the project.”
Specifically, the study will include a review of up to three new design alternatives aimed at fixing the Creek Road flooding problems. Pathways officials have promised to include permitting requirements, designs and identify potential funding sources for all three options.
Officials acknowledge one of the town’s options might involve permanently discontinuing through traffic on Creek Road (except for emergency vehicles), and relegating it to a multi-use path.
“It could be a very expensive project, or much less so, depending on the (repair) path that is chosen,” Werner said.
Selectwoman Susan Shashok, chairwoman of the Infrastructure Committee, agreed.
“We are hoping they will come up with answers that will help the Infrastructure Committee and the selectboard think about what we can do that’s not going to cost an enormous amount of money, yet keep that connectivity that we want,” Shashok said. “It’s a tough one.”
The unclosed portion of Creek Road has already received some significant attention during the past year. Crews last fall completed a $752,000 project to fix and pave 2,200 feet of Creek Road north of the closed section and install a new sidewalk on the west side of the street, which among other things serves Middlebury’s new recreation facility.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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