What We Think About the Temporary Bridges Project
Part 3: Downtown, Post-Construction
Today, as part of our weeklong review of the follow-up survey I conducted in late September on this summer’s temporary bridges construction project, we’ll focus on how those responding to the survey feel about the temporary bridges after living with them for a few weeks.
(Main Street was reopened on August 4, Merchants Row on August 11. The survey was sent out on September 20, and again a week later.)
Let’s start with revisiting the question I opened up with on Monday: How satisfied are you with how the temporary bridges construction project was managed?
As you can see, 90%+ of survey respondents said that they are either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with how construction was managed this summer. Sure, there were concerns about the daily impact of construction on stores and restaurants, traffic flow, St. Stephen’s, Town Hall Theater, CCV, etc. But in general, I see in this response a reflection of what I’ve heard from many: “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.”
So now construction is over. What do we think of downtown post construction?
Some 80% of the 240 individuals who responded to this question said they were either very satisfied (130 people) or somewhat satisfied (67) with the temporary bridges. About 8% said they were either somewhat dissatisfied (14) or very dissatisfied (6) with the temporary bridges.
We asked for comments on this question and got a lot. 99, to be exact.
I’ve singled out below one response that seems to me to capture the sentiment of many.
"They're different, but they certainly serve their purpose and present an acceptable level of change to our downtown until the permanent bridges can be erected."
That said, our survey takers had a lot to say about the temporary bridges and the reconfigured roadways downtown. Here’s a summary of what concerns them, much of which will be familiar to you if you’ve spent time downtown during the past two months.
What We Don’t Like
The height of the new roadways (especially on Main Street) and the reduced visibility in backing out of parking spots.
The loss of parking downtown, especially in the lower section of Merchants Row.
The one-way traffic flow on Merchants Row and the confusion around entering and exiting the Battell Block parking lot. (We see many out-of-staters especially mistaking the Battell parking lot entrance for a continuation of the roadway.)
The closed sidewalks on the Village Green side of Main Street and Merchants Row and the number of pedestrians jaywalking.
No vehicle access from Main Street to Marble Works (believe me, I miss that, too).
The steep grade in front of the National Bank and what that means for the sidewalk during winter.
The ugliness of the chain-link fences and Jersey barriers. As one respondent put it, they are “disruptive to the architecture of the neighborhood.”
The challenge for bicyclists on the Main Street bridge.
No pedestrian footbridge on Merchants Row similar to the one on Main Street.
What We Do Like
Safety: the 100-year-old deteriorated bridges are gone.
The wooden pedestrian footbridge connecting the National Bank to the Post Office.
The one-way traffic flow on Merchants Row. Many said they hope it remains one way once the permanent bridges are in place.
The reduced speed of vehicles on Main Street resulting from the narrower roadway.
Merchants Row more pedestrian friendly.
Safer pedestrian access between Main Street and the Marble Works.
There’s a story behind each of these likes and dislikes. And adjustments that we can continue to make. My goal this week is simply to report out what folks are saying. In a future update I’ll return to this list and let you know why some things are the way they are and what we can do to adjust.
Tomorrow we’ll look at how people responded to these two questions: How would rate the impact of this summer's construction project on your life? and Did your experience with this summer's construction project change your perception of Middlebury's Rail & Bridge project?
That’s all for today. 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.