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Middlebury readies new traffic plan

MIDDLEBURY — The scheduled 10-week closure of Middlebury’s Main Street and Merchants Row is still around six months away, but town officials have already mapped out and approved a plan for temporarily re-routing traffic and reconfiguring parking spaces during what will be a tumultuous construction period for the downtown.
Closure of the two key roads is currently slated for May 27 to Aug. 5, during which contractors will be installing a 360-foot-long concrete tunnel that will supplant the Main Street and Merchants Row bridges. That tunnel is the centerpiece of the $72 million project, which got under way in 2018 and will wrap up in 2021.
Downtown Middlebury is not only a shopping hub, it is also a transportation nexus for those connecting to Routes 7, 30 and 125. So the Middlebury Public Health & Safety Committee wants to get word out early on the various detours and parking changes that folks can expect next summer. Instrumental in crafting the traffic rerouting plan were Jim Gish, Middlebury’s liaison to the rail bridges project, and Addison County Transit Resources Regional Director Bill Cunningham.
The plan unanimously approved by the town selectboard on Nov. 12 calls for:
•  Temporarily eliminating the left-hand turn from South Pleasant Street onto Cross Street in order to improve traffic flow during the Main Street-Merchants Row shutdown. This change is expected to last from May 1 to Aug. 31. The Vermont Agency of Transportation will fund appropriate signage, according to Gish.
The Committee isn’t at this point recommending elimination of the left-hand turn from South Street onto Route 30/South Main Street, but the panel will be monitoring traffic flow next summer and might ask for additional adjustments to better manage traffic downtown.
•  Temporarily reducing parking time in the lower municipal lot behind the town offices from all day to three hours. The municipal lot between the Counseling Service of Addison County and Mister Up’s Restaurant off Bakery Lane will remain all-day parking.
•  Designating the 12 parking spaces directly behind Ilsley Library for seniors and families with small children. The goal is to have the Ilsley parking lot used primarily by customers of downtown businesses for the summer 2020 shutdown, according to committee members.
•  Temporarily eliminating parking on Route 30/South Main Street between Academy Street and Middlebury College’s Mahaney Arts Center. The goal here is to facilitate the delivery of the huge precast concrete tunnel pieces from the Fifield Farm to Main Street/Merchants Row without shutting down Route 30 altogether, officials said. This parking ban will be in effect from approximately June 7 to 27.
•  Temporarily converting Franklin Street to one-way traffic (headed up the hill toward the college) and convert the right-hand lane to parking spaces. The goal here is to create additional parking within five minutes of downtown and to provide parking for Sanderson Funeral Home during the three-week period that parking on South Main Street is eliminated. The committee could make this a longer-term switch depending on the use and feedback received during this trial period, officials added.
•  Addison County Transit Resources to run a continuous shuttle service between the Marble Works and Main Street/Merchants Row, with stops at the Main Street Post Office, Town Hall Theater, and the municipal building. The goal here is to get pedestrians from one side of the open rail cut to the other on a 10-minute cycle from May 1 to Aug. 31, officials said.
•  Installing bike racks at the following locations around town during the shutdown: The Post Office, town green, Star Mill building, Mill Street, Riverfront Park, the town recreation park, and the Frank Mahady Courthouse.
•  Installing temporary crosswalk protection devices for the four South Main Street crosswalks for the entire period during which soil will be hauled from the construction site during round-the-clock operations.
•  Forbidding a left turn from Seymour Street onto Main Street, while closing access to Main Street from North Pleasant Street.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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