In the days after we reopened Merchants Row, several people came up to me and asked, “So what are you going to do with all of your free time now that the temporary bridges construction is nearly done?”
Well, I am taking a few days off, heading to Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom. But when I signed up in January 2016 to be your Community Liaison, I enlisted for the full duration of the project.
So this Fall I’ll again be representing Middlebury at those important meetings and planning sessions with the Federal Highway Administration, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and Kubricky.
And I’ll continue meeting with all of our local stakeholders as we work together to maximize the benefits to Middlebury of this major infrastructure investment while managing the disruption to our downtown. In particular, I’m really looking forward to building on this summer’s collaboration with the Better Middlebury Partnership, the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, and that phenomenal community action group, Neighbors Together.
Looking Ahead: 2018
In September, I’m planning on undertaking a new series of community updates that focuses on the project work planned for 2018. Much of the work planned for 2018 and 2019 concerns improvements to the rail line that passes through our downtown. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about this work and what impact it will have on downtown life. We’ll take a big-picture look at the overall investment plan for the western corridor rail line and the relationship between Vermont Rail and the State AOT. And we’ll examine in detail the current condition of the rail line downtown (see photo), the planned improvements, and the 2018 timeline. Along the way I’ll address some of the rumors and misinformation I’ve heard regarding this part of the project. We’ll get started after Labor Day.
Wrapping Up the Temporary Bridges
I met with VTrans and Kubricky last week to review final touches on our new temporary bridges. I’ve asked that a large directional arrow be painted in the Merchants Row travel lane pointing the way over the bridge. A few motorists, mostly out-of-staters, have followed the roadway to the right and ended up in the Battell Block parking lot. Also, a No Parking sign will be installed in the space in front of Carol’s Hungry Mind Café next to the crosswalk so that pedestrians and motorists entering and exiting the Battell parking lot have a clear line of sight. Visibility on the Jersey barriers at the top of Merchants Row is a concern to some. Kubricky will install reflective markers on top of the barriers. Other concerns? Let me know via email.
Regular readers will recall my concerns about folks jaywalking once we reopened Main Street. At my request Kubricky installed No Pedestrian signs at the approaches to the bridge and Cross at Crosswalk signs on the St. Stephen’s side of Main Street. That’s helped address the safety issue. Interestingly, there’s a positive side to this that took me a while to see. Pedestrians have begun to reclaim downtown. The narrowed bridge on Main Street and the one-way bridge on Merchants Row have reduced the speed of most traffic coming through town. I think people feel safer walking around their downtown. There seems to be a better balance between people walking and people driving. That’s not an invitation to walk out into the middle of the street! Just an observation on how a reconfigured roadway can change downtown dynamics.
That’s all for today. See you downtown.
Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.