News

Bristol, Vergennes roadwork back on

CREWS AND HEAVY equipment have taken over downtown Bristol as the long-awaited Paving and Sidewalk/Lighting Replacement projects get started. The projects, which have merged under the supervision of the Vermont Department of Transportation, were supposed to be completed Oct. 9, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the end date is now up in the air.

BRISTOL / VERGENNES — After a couple of slow and quiet months, downtown Bristol is suddenly abuzz with activity — great yellow machines, masked workers with helmets, excavation, grading, upgrading.
The Bristol paving and sidewalk/lighting replacement projects, which were delayed for a month because of the pandemic, are finally under way.
The same contractor has also begun work on a paving project in Vergennes — milling a portion of Route 22A/Main Street this week.
Workers are closing one lane at a time, with flaggers onsite to direct alternating traffic on the one open lane. 
The project will update the road from the Panton town line north for 2.189 miles to the Ferrisburgh town line. They will also pave Green Street from Main Street to Route 7.
Last week, crumbling brick pavers on both sides of Bristol’s Main Street were removed, and trenches were dug to install new wiring, lights and stamped concrete pavers.
This week crews in Bristol continued excavating and installing new light pole foundations along the sidewalks between North Street and the National Bank of Middlebury.
Some parking spaces are expected to be closed off during this time, but traffic impacts are expected to be minimal, and all downtown businesses will remain accessible.
The project’s overall schedule is “fluid” at the moment. 
Work was originally scheduled to be completed by Oct. 9, but with a month’s delay and current economic and health uncertainties, an end date is hard to predict at this point, Vermont Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Chris Lavalette said during a public information meeting held via Zoom last week.
“Tentatively, we’re looking at milling late in the week of (May 25),” Lavalette said at the meeting. “The sidewalk reconstruction will probably last until around late June.”
Day work will continue until June 1 — again this is tentative — and then all work on the sidewalk in the village area will be completed via night work, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
But “it won’t be every single night,” said Brandyn Gadapee, the onsite superintendent for the project contractor, J. Hutchins. “It will be sporadic.”
The project is proceeding according to the public health guidelines set forth by Gov. Phil Scott as part of his plan to gradually restart economic activity in Vermont.
“These guidelines are somewhat fluid as the governor continues to make changes, in response to data, three times a week,” Lavalette said during the meeting. “Following these guidelines we’re requiring our contractor and our personnel to wear masks in the presence of other people. Work is to be done by social distancing when possible. We also have the contractor appoint a COVID safety officer on every VTrans project.”
The officer for this project, Gadapee, has taken an online tutorial about COVID-19 safety and will monitor the status of crewmembers, who will self-report their symptoms and sense of wellbeing.
Some Bristol residents have questioned the effectiveness of this approach, however, and expressed concern about the risks of pursuing the paving and sidewalk/lighting projects in the middle of a global health crisis. 
“Given the tight spaces in which the teams will be working, I find it concerning that the only health protocols in place are that workers should tell someone if they feel sick, and they should wear masks,” Bristol resident Jessica Teets said through an email to the Independent. Teets also raised her concerns at the public Zoom meeting.
“We know that COVID-19 is often asymptomatic, so that people can be actively infecting everyone while not feeling sick,” she said. “Masks are a good precaution, but with so many workers from all over the state congregating in the downtown, this is not enough.”
Other residents have expressed similar concerns to the town selectboard and on Front Porch Forum, according to Bristol Town Administrator Valerie Capels.
“The Town takes the concerns of citizens very seriously and has shared them with VTrans project managers and engineers, along with our expectation that the workers will follow all appropriate health and safety protocols,” Capels said through an email. “The combined paving and Main Street sidewalk and lighting projects got off to a challenging start, but we hope that on-going communications and vigilance will address citizens’ concerns as the projects move forward.”
Residents with concerns about the project, or who wish to receive regular updates, should contact project spokesperson Natalie Boyle at [email protected].
The town of Bristol and Bristol CORE will also be posting regular project updates.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
Homepage Featured News

Legislators point to action on housing, environment, school funding

Local lawmakers on Monday listed a series of initiatives they believe will define the 2024 … (read more)

News

‘All aboard’ for the parade: Yellow House resident’s train dream comes true

Everybody loves a parade — but the Middlebury Memorial Day parade could really use more cr … (read more)

News

Lincoln’s Jeanne Albert running for House

Lincoln’s Jeanne Albert isn’t afraid of putting in a ton of effort to scale new heights.

Share this story: