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2019 Update #23

The Post-Vacation Catch-Up

It occurred to me while on vacation that I could just stay up on Penobscot Bay and eat lobster rolls forever.

But then there’s reality, and Middlebury is my home, so let’s get right to the latest updates on our downtown construction project.

Your Weekly Construction Update

No change in the plan to begin this year’s construction work on or about August 1.

We’ll start to see some activity in town toward the end of the month as Kubricky and its subcontractors begin mobilizing in equipment in preparation for the rail corridor work that will take us through to the end of the year.

Both ECI and Maine Drilling & Blasting return this year, with Maine D&B handling the minipile drilling that is central to supporting the rail abutments when the downtown rail corridor is excavated and rebuilt next summer. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of that operation as the work gets underway.

Restoring Riverfront Park

You may remember that Spring’s high-water events washed out sections of the maintenance access road (which also serves as a walkway for strollers in the park) that runs alongside and just above Otter Creek at the edge of Riverfront Park in the Marble Works.

The weather finally cooperated and the area was restored during the last week of June. Kubricky regraded and reseeded the access road and adjacent park areas that had been disturbed during construction and then repaved the pathway leading from the Marble Works parking lot down to the pedestrian bridge across Otter Creek. The shelf that forms the access road now sits a little higher above Otter Creek than it did prior to construction.

Saturday’s downpour washed out a small section of topsoil next to the paved pathway. That, too, has now been restored.

The Shadow of October 2007

You may have read in last Thursday’s Addison Independent that two freight train cars derailed in the Middlebury railyard on Tuesday, July 2. The railyard is located just north of Greg’s Market and Middlebury Discount Beverage and is used for local freight deliveries—fuel oil to MacIntyre, for example.

As a northbound Vermont Rail train moved through the railyard at about 10 mph Tuesday morning, a switch malfunctioned, sending two cars onto a siding and causing them to jump the track. Both cars remained upright. As John Flowers reported, there were no injuries and no spills, and service was restored the following morning.

It’s perhaps inevitable that this event, minor as it was, would remind us of the far more consequential derailment behind South Pleasant Street in October 2007 and again raise concerns about the safety of our downtown as fuel oil, gasoline, and other materials travel daily through it.

The October 2007 derailment was attributed to deteriorated track conditions. We will now have substantial protection against a recurrence of the 2007 derailment once VTrans fully rebuilds the rail line running between the truss bridge across Otter Creek on the south to the railyard on the north next summer. There are no switches on the line as it passes through central downtown.

Of course, a derailment could occur either side of the rebuilt rail line—or anywhere else along the 75-mile stretch between Rutland and Burlington. In that event, as was the case in October 2007, we have to rely on the protocols and procedures established by Vermont Rail, our local emergency responders, and our state and federal emergency management professionals to manage the situation.

I’ll be looking into what those protocols and procedures say in future updates.

Neighbors Together Launches 2019 Downtown Plan

Recently I’ve been reporting on the $228,750 grant that the Vermont Agency of Transportation awarded the Town to fund the work of Neighbors Together.

The NT team formally launched its 2019 plan Wednesday night by hosting a meeting at which all of our downtown businesses were invited to attend, ask questions, and get involved.

Many did, including the Marquis Theater, Forth ‘n Goal, the Steven Jupiter Gallery, Vermont’s Own Products, Buy Again Alley, June Bug, Inn on the Green, Town Hall Theatre, the National Bank of Middlebury, Danforth, IPJ, Sweet Cecily, and the Co-Op.

Big thanks to Mark Perrin and the folks at Green Peppers for providing free pizza for all.

Summer Reading & Summer Flowers

Have you noticed that delightful rascal The Cat in the Hat peering out onto Merchants Row?

His appearance as part of our downtown public art project and his encouraging message to all are courtesy of the Ilsley Library. Pictured in the photo below from left to right are Neighbors Together co-chair Linda Horn, MCTV executive director Kurt Broderson, and Ilsley Library director Dana Hart. Also helping with the installation were Renee Ursitti, Catherine Nichols, and Tricia Allen.

You may have noticed that our downtown flowers are now in full blossom. Many thanks to the caring hands of Patrice Colander in late June and more recently of Courtney DeBisschop for watering them faithfully. Shirley Carlson and friends from St. Mary's Catholic Church will be tending the flowers in the coming weeks.

Regrettably I did want to let you know that twice in the past month someone has taken flower boxes from the Main Street footbridge and tossed them down onto the rail line, the second time actually tearing them loose where they had been affixed to the footbridge railing with deck screws. Given the hard work of our “flower brigade,” this senseless vandalism is especially disappointing.

It’s All-Star Season

Baseball celebrated midseason with the All-Star game this week. Here in Middlebury we’ve got our own all-star lineup of upcoming events and entertainment.

The 41st Annual Middlebury Festival on the Green continues its week-long run through Saturday night. You can get the full rundown on remaining musical events here. Saturday night’s Street Dance with the Vermont Jazz Ensemble promises to wind things up on a high note. That gets underway at 7 PM.

Think you can walk a mile a day over the next 30 days?

Next Tuesday, July 16, marks the launch of Neighbors Together’s Health & Wellness initiative that I previewed in your June 14 update. The “Come Alive Outside 30 Days, 30 Mile Walking Challenge” is a great way to stay in shape, have fun with friends and family, win Middlebury Money, and learn more about your well-being.

Once a week on Tuesdays, starting at 5:15 PM at Mary Hogan, there will be a formal group walk featuring a short talk by a Porter Medical Center professional. On the 16th, you’ll have a chance to meet Seleem Choudhury, the new President and CEO of Porter Medical Center.

But you can walk your way to health and wealth on your own schedule as well. Get the details and register to start counting your miles here.

Once you’ve finished your mile walk next Wednesday, July 17, you can head on over for your reward to the annual Lions Club Auction & Barbecue on the Town Green. The barbecue, a $13 bargain, gets underway at 4 PM followed by the always-popular auction at 6 PM.

If you’re still hungry when Friday rolls around, here’s a reminder that Town Hall Theatre recently launched its Spinning Plates Food Truck Adventure. Each Friday this summer, our good friends at Tourterelle will serve casual French fare between 5 PM and 10 PM in the space between THT and the former Diner on Merchants Row. Evolution Kitchen, Middlebury UndergrounD’s new rentable food truck, will also be serving food on select Saturdays this summer. You can check out the full schedule here.

And finally, Bundle @ 60 Main, our popular new pop-up storefront on Main Street, has several new events planned for the rest of the month: Beginner Printmaking for Textiles & Paper on July 16, a don’t-miss-this-one Middlebury Farmers’ Market Pop-Up on July 25, Kitty Yoga with Homeward Bound on July 26 (will the kittens balk at having to do the downward-facing dog pose?), and a Collage Workshop on July 27. Details 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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