Letter to the Editor: Alternative rail plan sparks action

Last week’s letter about the VTrans’ rail project triggered requests for more specifics about anticipated disruption and damage. Many readers asked: “What can I do?” Several noted that if VTrans’ plan is followed it will disrupt everyone who works in, lives in, shops in, drives through or otherwise uses Middlebury. This is NOT just a “downtown problem”.
First, some facts…. 
VTrans plans to lower 2/3rd mile of RR track to increase vertical clearance under the two bridges. For 168 years trains have leaked oil, brake fluid and other contaminants on those tracks. That excavation will yield 1,600 dump truck loads of contaminated material which they plan to truck over Water St., Cross St., Main St. and down Seymour St. where it will be dumped — temporarily — near Wright Park alongside Otter Creek. Sometime later it will be moved to a hazardous waste site.
During the 10 weeks, June-August, of actual bridge replacement, VTrans’ work plan calls for seven-day-per-week, 24-hours-per-day construction with consequent all-night lighting and construction noise, dust and dirt. Car, truck and pedestrian traffic will have to deal with the shutdown of both Merchants Row and Main Street.
Virtually closing our downtown for 10 weeks will be a death sentence for some retailers and a hardship for the extended community. This isn’t a matter of business owners “making a little less profit.” They will be unable to pay employees, their rent and other operating expenses. That means lost jobs and closed businesses. Compare the $12 million VTrans budgeted to re-route freight traffic to not one dollar to protect Middlebury businesses.
The alternative….
Common sense and pragmatism demand the goal should be to minimize cost, damage and disruption while constructing permanent bridges and fixing the tracks. The alternative approach meets safety objectives, avoids the damage and disruption, takes far less time and costs a small fraction of the $52 million VTrans approach. It uses Carrara pre-cast components (as with the Cross St. bridge) to replace the bridges at their current clearance and includes the needed upgrades to rail bed, drainage and tracks. There should be no delay since the alternative is far less complex. The temporary bridges are safe and the alternative takes dramatically less time to complete   while accommodating any needs VTrans imagines in the far distant future.
What can I do?
Tell the Governor.
The message is clear: “Please stop this extravagant, destructive project. Don’t waste our $$$ and don’t waste our community.”
Email, write or call Governor Phil Scott. He listens and it’s easy to do.
•  Email via his website:  governor.vermont.gov/contact-us/message,
•  Write to: Governor Phil Scot, 109 State St. Pavillion, Montpelier, VT 05609
•  Call: 802-828-3333.
Send a copy your legislators:
•  Sen. Claire Ayer — [email protected].
•  Sen. Chris Bray — [email protected].
•  Rep. Amy Sheldon — [email protected].
•  Rep. Robin Scheu — [email protected].
Your voice is important and it needs to be heard!
Bruce Hiland

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