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2018 Update #46

Saluting Our All-Volunteer Army; We Pass the 100’ Mark

Since January, members of our community have volunteered more than 2,400 hours as part of an all-in effort to manage our town through the Rail & Bridge Project.

That was one of the takeaways from a nearly hour-long sit-down earlier this week between Neighbors Together and Governor Scott, a frank discussion that spoke to the value of the community’s partnership with the state of Vermont while acknowledging the short-term hardships that lie ahead.

(On Tuesday, Governor Scott and members of his administration, including Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn, traveled to Middlebury as part of the Governor’s “Capitol for a Day” initiative, a months-long tour of the state’s 14 counties designed to put the Governor and his cabinet in direct contact with local businesses, schools, community organizations, and municipal governments.)

Investing State & Federal $

At the meeting Neighbors Together co-chair Nancy Malcolm and Better Middlebury Partnership Executive Director Karen Duguay reviewed the initiatives developed to date to drive local business revenue using state and federal grants.

In 2018, these include the launch of a town-wide local shopping rewards program in combination with a “Middlebury’s Hidden Gems” social media advertising campaign (check it out on Instagram), special events like our recent downtown block party, and an all-new Experience Middlebury website that will feature profiles of every business in Middlebury and a master calendar of town events. A key theme was the importance of future state grants to sustain this commitment to our local business community.

A second theme was opportunity, and while this may seem at odds with the disruption we will experience downtown during the next two years, many community leaders believe that now is the time to come to grips with what it takes to sustain a thriving downtown in the age of Amazon Prime.

All of this was well received by Governor Scott, who also had time to tour the construction site that we all now know so well. Pictured, left to right in the photo below, are Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay, Secretary Flynn, VTrans Resident Engineer Tim Pockette, Addison Independent photographer Trent Campbell, project inspector Gordy Eastman, and Governor Scott.

By the way, those 2,400 volunteer hours? That’s the equivalent of 1 individual working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for more than a year.

Construction Update

Now on to our weekly construction update.

Another week of steady progress in Printer’s Alley as the Tunnel Boring Machine continued its 140-foot journey from the launch pit’s rock face out to Otter Creek. As of Thursday afternoon, we have just crossed the 100-foot mark. That means a lot of activity in store next week.

Robbins and ECI expect to “break through” the slope above Otter Creek in Riverfront Park on Tuesday. At this point, the TBM will be disconnected from the steel casing that has been trailing it through the tunnel and transported by crane back to the Launch Pit, where it will be readied to begin boring the second of the three planned tunnels that comprise the drainage system, this one an uphill run to Receiving Pit 2 behind Triangle Park. That will likely get underway the week of September 24.

In the meantime, work will take place to complete the “outfall,” where the drainage system outlets to Otter Creek. This will involve additional steel casing, grouting, installation of the carrier pipe, construction of a footer and head wall – all activities I’ll cover in future weekly updates. We can expect all work in Riverfront Park to be completed and the park restored in October.

In Triangle Park, Maine D&B conducted the final blast of this construction season on Tuesday afternoon. It speaks to the quality of the planning and the work in the field that none of the 18 blasts that took place this year resulted in any property damage. (Not that there weren’t a few anxious moments in storefronts and basements along Main Street!) Blasting zone signs installed around town will now be covered until 2019.

This week and next, Kubricky will finish excavating Receiving Pit 2, the southern arm of the new drainage system, down to its final depth of about 24 feet below track level. As I mentioned last week, some of the bedrock will be removed using the hoe ram, our least favorite machine because of its rather loud, insistent hammering.

Along the St. Stephen’s side of the rail embankment, Kubricky will cut and/or trim a few more trees to allow Otter Creek Engineering a clear line of sight in its daily monitoring of our historic buildings.

No activity is expected to take place at Receiving Pit 3, the northern arm of the new drainage system, located alongside the rail line in the Marble Works, until October.

With the exception of a gated entryway to be installed at its northern (Battell Block) end, work on the temporary access road connecting Water Street to the Battell Building parking lot is now complete.

Contaminated soil excavated from the rail corridor during the construction of the temporary access road is in the process of being trucked to a processing facility in Fort Edward, New York. Contaminated soils are being handled in accordance with a Corrective Action Plan developed in collaboration with and approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Whither Triangle Park and Printer’s Alley?

Next Wednesday VHB will hold a public meeting to share the State’s plan for restoring Triangle Park and Printer’s Alley as construction draws to a close in 2021. The State will invest in upgrading both areas, leaving the town with functional green spaces that can be further refined over time as the community wants. This meeting will get underway at 6:30 PM in the Large Conference Room at the Town Offices.

That’s all for today. See you downtown.

Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.

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