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2019 Update #31

A Weekend Blast, Planapalooza

Activity on the temporary access road that runs alongside Otter Creek between the Battell Block and Water Street kicked up a notch this week. Let’s review what’s taking place and why and then look ahead to the weekend of September 14-15, one of four weekends this Fall when work will take place.

Your Weekly Construction Update

This week, as planned, Maine Drilling & Blasting began installing minipiles to stabilize the slope that forms the rail abutment alongside the Battell Block driveway.

Next week Maine D&B will continue minipile drilling up the Battell driveway and then across the driveway entrance to the Merchants Row temporary bridge. (If you’re curious, the locations of the minipiles to be installed are marked in pink in the roadway.)

To get this work done safely and efficiently, Kubricky will close the Battell driveway on Monday morning. All motor vehicles entering or exiting the lower Battell Block parking lot will do so via “the scenic route”—along the temporary access road and Water Street (the block that dead ends at Otter Creek).

Flaggers will control traffic at either end of the one-lane temporary access road. Barriers will be installed on the river side to protect motorists. The Battell driveway will be reopened each evening at 7 PM. The work is expected to take all week.

The second Maine D&B drilling rig will continue drilling in bedrock through next week in preparation for the blasting needed to remove that bedrock in the vicinity of the Main Street Bridge. That blasting gets underway the weekend of September 14-15 (see below).

Activity along the temporary access road continued to ramp up as Kubricky spent a second week constructing the new town sewer line and Kubricky and Nop’s Metalworks began installing timber lagging between the minipiles behind the two Smith Housing buildings on South Pleasant Street in preparation for sewer line work taking place the weekend of September 14-15 (also see below).

Finally, Kubricky is excavating the slope next to the Post Office to provide room for Maine D&B to install minipiles in this section of the rail corridor.

A Weekend Blast

If you’ve been a regular reader of these weekly updates and/or attended the June public meeting at which VTrans and Kubricky laid out the construction plan for the next two years, you’ll recall that work is scheduled to take place on four weekends this Fall. That work gets underway the weekend of September 14-15.

Why weekends? Two things need to be accomplished before the rail corridor is excavated and rebuilt next year. Bedrock needs to be removed from underneath and around the Main Street Bridge and town water, sewer, and stormwater lines that currently cross under the rail line have to be lowered. These two tasks can only be accomplished when Vermont Rail is off the tracks for an extended period. Hence, the weekend work.

So what can we expect the weekend of September 14-15?

Maine Drilling & Blasting will conduct about seven blasts, starting with a test blast on Friday evening around 7 PM and continuing on Saturday and Sunday with blasts at approximately 6 AM, Noon, and 6 PM.

The blasts will take place in a 100-foot section of the rail corridor that stretches from a spot roughly opposite the back of the Post Office northward. As was the protocol last year, pedestrians and motorists within 500 feet of the blast area will be asked to stay in place for about 10 minutes before each blast.

That means that traffic will be temporarily stopped on Main Street and Seymour Street and customers at Flatbread, for example, will be asked to stay inside for that 10 minutes until the all-clear whistle sounds. A small army of flaggers (yours truly included) will enforce the 500-foot radius zone.

While Maine D&B is conducting its blasts, Kubricky will install the new town sewer line being constructed behind South Pleasant Street underneath the rail corridor. That work will take place immediately behind the Smith Housing buildings and across the creek from The Arcadian/Haymaker.

It’s likely to be intermittently noisy downtown overnight on Friday and Saturday as drilling and rock removal takes place post-blasting in a 24-hour-a-day operation. The construction areas will be illuminated with four light towers in the blasting area, two at the sewer line crossing, one underneath Cross Street Bridge on the temporary access road, and one at the town’s Stump Dump.

None of this work should disrupt Sunday services at St. Stephen’s or at the Congregational Church, Grace Baptist Church, or the Memorial Baptist Church.

Weekend work continues October 12-13, November 9-10, and December 7-8. That last weekend is our Very Merry Middlebury weekend. I’ll work with VTrans to ensure that Santa’s visit and related events on Saturday are not disrupted.

Downtown Planning Gets Energetic Kick-Off

Let’s take a break from construction and think about the future of our downtown. Some 50 citizens gathered in the Town Offices Wednesday night to do just that as the Downtown Master Planning process got underway with an energetic exchange of ideas, hopes, and concerns.

Brian Wright, founder of Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative, an urban design and community development firm hired by the town to develop the master plan, led Wednesday’s kick-off. TPUDC wrote the award-winning downtown and water redevelopment plan for Burlington and has done similar work for several New England towns, including St. Albans, Portsmouth NH, and Lewiston ME.

Billed as a “planapalooza,” the next set of public meetings will be held November 7-11 and will focus on developing a series of designs for various sections of downtown. The work will take place in an open studio space at 51 Main, where the public can stop in during extended hours to meet with the project team as they are working and view designs in development.

Thanks to GM John Zahn and the team at the Middlebury Inn for donating rooms for our TPUDC guests and to the downtown businesses that completed surveys and interviews conducted by Middlebury College interns this summer.

The kick-off event was hosted by Middlebury’s Planning Commission. For more information and to be added to the project’s email list, please contact Town Planner Jennifer Murray at

A Slippery Slope

Two concerned citizens got in touch recently to let me know how slippery the short crosswalk leading from the Merchants Row Bridge to the Battell Block sidewalk has become in the rain. That’s due in part to the steeper grade of the crosswalk to accommodate the “hump” in the temporary bridge and in part to the red paint whose purpose is to highlight the crosswalks for motorists.

On Friday the Town’s Highway Department will grind the crosswalk to improve traction. In the meantime, we’ve posted “slippery when wet” signs on orange construction cones at either end of the crosswalk. Please watch your step in the crosswalk.

On that note, if you see something that concerns you about the safety of pedestrians or motorists in and around the downtown construction area, please let me know and I’ll look into it. One thing I can’t fix, however, is the smell from the skunk that met its maker on Main Street Bridge over Labor Day weekend. That smell is lingering!

Notes from Around Town

Last week I dropped by Otter Creek Used Books in the Marble Works to check in with owner and fellow bibliophile Barbara Harding. I was met at the door by Barbara and stacks and stacks of good used books waiting for a new owner. This place is a treasure trove for readers so you might want to stop in and see what’s new on the shelves next time you’re in town. You might find just the book you didn’t know you were looking for. Store hours are 10 am – 5 pm every day but Sunday.

Porter Medical Center’s contribution to our Summer and Fall walking challenge continues next Tuesday at Mary Hogan with a brief talk by podiatric physician Dr. Peter Miller on the topic, “Happy Feet! Choosing Walking Shoes.” With all the time I spend on my feet downtown, I’ll be there and hope you will, too. Things get underway every Tuesday at 5:15 PM.

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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