Middlebury Adjusts to Closure of Downtown Roadways
Thursday was a tough day to get around in downtown Middlebury. Motorists and pedestrians alike had to rethink familiar travel patterns once Kubricky closed Merchants Row as planned on Thursday morning at 7 AM. Before we get into the details, let’s do a quick reset on our project:
We are now one-third of the way through a three-week construction project whose purpose is to replace the 100-year-old Main Street and Merchants Row bridges.
Main Street, which has been under construction since July 20, will reopen in 8 days, on Saturday, August 5.
Merchants Row, closed yesterday, will reopen in 15 days, on Saturday, August 12.
Printer’s Alley is now open to pedestrians, reconnecting Main Street to the Marble Works.
A new pedestrian bridge is open, connecting the National Bank to the Post Office.
During construction, every business and every building remains open and accessible.
Around Town on Thursday. Morning rush hour went relatively well. By lunchtime, the rain had arrived and with it a substantial uptick in traffic volume on Cross Street, South Pleasant Street, and Route 7. Getting crosstown took a little time and a little patience. Merging from South Pleasant Street onto Cross Street was a particular challenge. I would not recommend trying to make the left onto Cross Street from South Pleasant Street during the next week.
Parking downtown was also a challenge. I saw folks circling the lower Ilsley lot looking for spaces. At mid-morning, however, the Mill Street parking lot down Frog Hollow was only half full and there were plenty of spaces at the Town Pool. Remember that the Main Street Express downtown shuttle will bring you from these two lots into the center of town in a matter of minutes.
Getting There from Here. Also a challenge on Day One of the Merchants Row closure was the closing of the Merchants Row sidewalk at the Battell parking lot. Getting from the Battell Block to The Diner or Town Hall Theater now requires walking up Main Street to the Post Office and then walking around the Village Green to the upper section of Merchants Row. This was done on Thursday to prepare pedestrians for the demolition of the Merchants Row Bridge on Friday and the resulting gap in the rail line that will cut the Merchants Row sidewalk in half for several days.
By mid-afternoon, traffic had settled, pedestrians had discovered the new pedestrian bridge on Main Street, and several downtown businesses told me they were having good days. There was a steady stream of pedestrians walking up and down Main Street.
Thursday Wrap-Up. The new pedestrian bridge was opened early morning, reconnecting the National Bank to the Post Office and providing a convenient platform for viewing the construction work on Main Street. The setup of the Mabey bridge was finalized on Main Street and the roadway on the north end of Main Street excavated. Kubricky set half of the deck panels that form the roadway on the temporary bridge. On Merchants Row, Kubricky mobilized its equipment into the construction zone and fenced off the perimeter with an 8 x 10 foot chain-link fence. Kubricky also excavated the asphalt and concrete from the western portion of the Merchants Row roadway and Champlain Construction trucked the debris to its Case Street quarry for recycling.
What’s On Tap Friday: Main Street. Kubricky will finish assembling the deck panels on the Mabey bridge and begin trucking out asphalt excavated from the Post Office side of the Main Street roadway. Reminder: Main Street is closed from Bakery Lane and Mill Street to Seymour Street. Vehicle traffic can enter Main Street from the Cross Street roundabout but cannot go further down Main Street than our two side streets leading to Frog Hollow and the lower Ilsley lot.
What’s On Tap Friday: Merchants Row. Once the final Vermont Rail train goes through around 8 AM, Kubricky will place crane mats and demo blankets on the rail line underneath the Merchants Row bridge to protect the rail from bridge debris. In late afternoon, Kubricky will begin demolishing the Main Street Bridge. If Merchants Row follows the same pattern as Main Street, this will be a several hour process wrapping up late Friday evening.
Downtown Information Booth Lineup for Friday. Staffing the Middlebury Rail & Bridge Project information booth in Cannon Park on Friday are Karen Duguay (10-12), Amey Ryan (12-2), and Elizabeth Marino (2-4). Stop by, say hello, and get the latest info on the project. A reminder that hours of operation are 10 AM – 4 PM Monday-Saturday.
Healthy Parking Tip #2 . As I mentioned yesterday, several folks have told me that they are using the construction activity and the lack of parking right downtown to get in shape by doing more walking. If that sounds like you, I counted no fewer than 60 parking spaces on the western side of Weybridge Street between College Street and Gorham Lane. Even at midday yesterday, only a handful of these spaces were taken. This is no more than a 10- to 15-minute walk right into the center of downtown.
Best View in Town. I stopped in Thursday morning at Charter House on Route 7 to check out the renovation of the upper floors that Dan Brown, Rich Carpenter, and others are doing on a volunteer basis. Highlight of the visit: meeting Joyce Foster of Foster Brothers Farm on Lower Foote Street in Middlebury, the folks who bring you MooDoo. Joyce has the best view in town of Main Street from her office on the ground floor of Charter House. The Charter House Coalition is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to providing basic food and housing in and around Middlebury. We are fortunate to have these folks in our community. For information on contributing to Charter House: http://www.charterhousecoalition.org/donate
The Breakfast Regulars at The Diner. I always enjoy going into The Diner on Merchants Row during breakfast time and seeing the regulars, especially super-waitress Hallie Sargent, Sue Leggett, and Joyce Sargent, who enjoys giving me a wee bit of grief about the project. Stop in during the next few days if you can during breakfast or lunch to see what Chef Carl Roesch has cooked up and to help The Diner out during the construction on Merchants Row. During breakfast hours there should be good parking at the Court Square end of South Pleasant Street.
See you downtown.
Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.