Work to resume on rail bridges project in Midd

MIDDLEBURY — Construction will resume on the downtown Middlebury rail bridges project on Monday, Aug. 5, with work to largely take place within a 1,700-foot stretch of rail bed that Kubricky Construction will deepen and fortify.
Next summer the deeper bed will be the centerpiece of the $72.5 million, three-year undertaking: A 360-foot-long concrete tunnel.
This latest phase of construction will extend into December. Since work will primarily take place below street level, officials aren’t forecasting a lot of detours or other substantial inconveniences for downtown merchants, residents and visitors, according to Vermont Agency of Transportation Project Manager Jonathan Griffin and Jim Gish, community liaison for the massive initiative.
“In general… the impact on the community as a whole will be much the same as last year,” said Gish.
Last year’s construction involved drilling a drainage system for the rail bed, relocating utilities and building a temporary access road to the Battell Block parking lot — work that brought excavation noise, occasional blasting and loss of some parking spots, but no new significant traffic impacts to the downtown, officials noted.
But this latest phase will bring longer (14-hour) workdays, and Merchants Row will be closed to through-traffic for two separate stretches of approximately five days to allow for installation of catch basins, as well as sewer, water and stormwater lines.
Other traffic inconveniences, according to Gish: Main Street will be closed overnight to through-traffic for three nights in order to install a new sewer line and manholes. Also, alternating lanes of Main Street will be closed for three to five days to install new Middlebury Post Office sewer service and new stormwater conduit and catch basins. One travel lane will always be maintained, he emphasized.
Exact dates of the temporary Merchants Row and Main Street traffic inconveniences have yet to be finalized.
Other community impacts from this year’s construction will include:
• Printer’s Alley will be closed to pedestrian traffic for five days to install new sewer manhole and sewer main.
• The Battell Block driveway will close for three five-day intervals, in order to install new water and sewer lines and support-of-excavation infrastructure. The temporary access road along Otter Creek from Water Street will provide parking lot access during closures. Pedestrian access from Merchants Row to the building’s lower parking lot will be maintained at all times.
Gish acknowledged Battell Block residents would be most affected by this fall’s construction activities. But the eye of the construction storm will shift from week to week.
“The impacts of construction on individual properties will be more pronounced, though they won’t be continuous because of the way sequenced work is going to move up and down the railroad corridor,” Gish said. “They won’t be in front of any one property for an extended period.”
• All pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the Main Street area will be halted for approximately 15 minutes before each blast during controlled blasting of bedrock within the rail bed. This work, and placement of utility lines underneath the rail line, will take place during the following four weekends: Sept. 13-16, Oct. 11-14, Nov. 8-11 and Dec. 6-9. (Middlebury College Parents Weekend is Sept. 27-29.)
“I will work with Kubricky and VTrans to minimize any impacts on our downtown businesses during those busy fall weekends,” Gish said.
Gish said Kubricky will work around the upcoming Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival and will coordinate its activities throughout the summer and fall to minimize disruption to Town Hall Theater events. Gish has organized a series of meetings between Kubricky and affected property owners to review upcoming construction activity and timelines.
Weekday workdays will begin at 7 a.m. and end at 9 p.m., though Gish and Griffin said construction more often than not should end by 7 p.m.
“We think the noise will be very comparable to last year,” Griffin said. “The key difference is that the workdays will be longer.”
The majority of activity within the rail corridor will involve installation of “support-of-excavation” infrastructure designed to stabilize the rail bed and its slopes in order to protect workers from potential soil cave-ins during construction and ensure smooth assembly of the large sections of the prefabricated concrete train tunnel next summer. That tunnel installation process will shut down Main Street and Merchants Row for 10 weeks.

Support-of-excavation work will involve driving 333 mini piles — long metal pipes — and 350 temporary metal sheets into the ground along the project corridor, which begins roughly 400 feet south of the Merchants Row bridge crossing, and ends at the northern most limits of the Marble Works property.
Maine Drilling & Blasting is expected to begin drilling mini piles on Monday, Aug. 5, beginning in the vicinity of Triangle Park and then shifting south to the rail corridor behind South Pleasant Street the following week.
Each of the mini piles will be 25 feet long and will be drilled at five-foot intervals on both sides of the tracks, according to Griffin. Each of the interlocking metal sheets will be around four feet wide.
Worker safety will be of paramount concern during the rail bed excavation process. Griffin explained the bed will be excavated around 13 feet at its deepest point, at the Merchants Row crossing. Excavation will become gradually shallower moving north and south of that deepest cut. This is calculated to ensure trains are afforded the minimum 21-foot clearance as stipulated by federal officials.
In other rail bridges project news, Kubricky will establish a field office in the former Diner building on Merchants Row. The company has signed a year-long lease with Town Hall Theater that begins Oct. 1.
Residents seeking more information can tap into Gish’s project blog at Additional project background can be found
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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