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2018 Update #48

Action on the Temporary Access Road; TBM Ready for Round 2

On Wednesday evening the newly built temporary access road that runs alongside Otter Creek between Water Street and the Battell Block parking lot got its first serious workout as our Middlebury Fire Department conducted a training exercise designed to test its ability to quickly deploy in the event of a fire or other emergency in the Battell building.

Chief David Shaw, Assistant Chief Pat Shaw, and a dozen members of our volunteer fire department brought the town’s new ladder truck (it arrived in January 2018) and a pumper truck down the access road and into the Battell parking lot. (The turning radius of the new ladder truck does not allow it to enter the Battell parking lot from Merchants Row while the temporary bridge is in place.)

Hoses were hooked up to the hydrant in Triangle Park and the ladder raised about 50 feet into the air (it can reach a height of 111 feet) in order to test the equipment and allow several firefighters to practice ascending and descending the ladder.

Many thanks to Alice and Rick Quesnel at Battell for their part in coordinating the training exercise and to the Battell residents for the early evening disruption. You can learn more about our fire department here.

The temporary access road, currently only available for use by construction vehicles and emergency responders, will be paved and opened to the driving public who need access to the Battell parking lot during the 10 weeks when Merchants Row is closed in Summer 2020 to rebuild the rail line and replace our downtown bridges with a tunnel.

Your Weekly Construction Update

As planned, earlier this week the Tunnel Boring Machine was lifted by crane onto a flatbed truck and taken back to the shop for a shower and shave. The photo below shows the crane that you’ve seen standing guard over Printer’s Alley for many months now on the move on its way to pick up the TBM. Sheets of plywood were laid down so the crane treads wouldn’t damage the Marble Works parking lot.

ECI then spent the week reconfiguring the Launch Pit in order to begin the second tunnel, this one an uphill run to Receiving Pit 2 behind Triangle Park. By Thursday morning, the TBM had begun its 152-foot journey under Main Street. We’ll track its progress in the days ahead.

Those downtowners who despaired of ever escaping the insistent hammering of the hoe ram in Receiving Pit 2 can rejoice: that work is now done. Kubricky has completed excavating the Triangle Park segment of the new drainage system.

That means that Kubricky will now turn its attention to Receiving Pit 3, the northern arm of the new drainage system, located alongside the rail line in the Marble Works. That area will first be fenced off, following which our friends Maine Drilling & Blasting will return to do some line drilling around the perimeter of the pit, as was done with the Launch Pit and Receiving Pit 2. Kubricky will then begin excavating the pit. I’m told that this area consists mostly of soil and loose rock so no hoe ram. Nop’s Metal Works will be back to work with Kubricky to install timber lagging as the pit is gradually excavated.

Downtown Survey Results

With Ben Franklin having announced that it will close its doors on Saturday, I thought this would be a good time to report out the results of the short survey I sent out this summer.

You may recall that in that survey I asked the following question: “If it were your decision, what would replace Ben Franklin and Clay's on Main Street in downtown Middlebury? It could be a specific business (e.g., Target small-format store, Apple Store, lululemon athletica), a generic type of business (e.g., men's clothing), or something else entirely. One caveat: It should be a place that you would actually support and spend money in!”

Some 230 people responded to the survey, which allowed them to list a first, second, and third choice.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that about 50% of those responding listed as their first choice a general merchandise store, often referencing Ames and Ben Franklin itself. While many saw the value of a small-format or “neighborhood” Walmart or Target (as you can see, I listed the latter as an option), many preferred an independent to a chain. Reasonable pricing was mentioned by many.

You can read through the results of the survey, listed in order by first choice, second choice, and third choice, here.

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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