Letter to the editor: Editorial wrong on bridge effort

I am sorry to have to take issue with an editor for whom I have the greatest respect and deepest affection, and whose newspaper is one of the great treasures of our town, but his editorial of Jan. 18 warrants it. He wants the Department of Transportation to halt the current downtown railroad project and to consider an alternative plan, which he claims would cost considerably less and could be completed in less time. This would be a reasonable suggestion if there were a credible alternate plan. But there is none. At most there has been a proposal for an alternate plan or sketch of a plan based on dubious assumptions. Indeed, an alternative like this has been considered by the Department of Transportation and rejected as inadequate.
Angelo Lynn bases his argument on a number of claims made by Bruce Hiland in an accompanying Op-Ed. I want to consider these: Mr. Hiland asserts that the so-called alternative plan would cost far less and could be completed in half the time. And he is correct that what he proposes would indeed cost less and be completed in less time.
But this is because his “alternate plan” would not accomplish what needs to be done, and what should be done, given that this is a 100-year project. He allows that just maybe in the distant future the Vermont Railway would begin using double stack railway cars, which would require additional clearance, but then he adds that this is no reason to provide for it. This makes no sense.
However, in his next paragraph he claims that the so-called alternative plan he favors does provide for this, because it has been “future proofed.” Future proofing is a practice employed in urban planning and design to insure that physical structures continue to be serviceable with minor improvement over a long duration; it takes into account future development and insures against obsolescence. Now, the proposed 21-foot clearance is a perfect example of this. It is prudent and forward looking. Mr. Hiland willfully ignores this.
Rather, he boldly claims that his alternative, which provides less clearance, nevertheless accomplishes just this. This is incredible, unless perhaps the designer of his proposed alternative is a magician. But then to accept this, one would have to believe in magic. I don’t, and I hope Mr. Hiland doesn’t. In any case, it’s not good public policy, which only makes Mr. Hiland’s claims all more incredible.
The remainder of his Op-Ed is no better. He rants against the 21-foot clearance, which he earlier claimed was a possibility. Perhaps I have failed to notice his rhetorical sarcasm and subtle irony; I have tried to take him at his word. Finally, he asserts that there is no drainage problem. He is sadly mistaken.
I hope that this newspaper will provide coverage to the positive side of this issue, for I am certain there is one. Fairness requires it.
As to Carol’s Hungry Mind. I am sorry to hear of its economic distress. A mere glance at its location, now hidden behind the temporary bridge and the loss of parking, is enough to make one worry for its survival. All the more reason not to halt the project.
Victor Nuovo
Middlebury selectboard member

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