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2020 Update #60

Hope and Light, 2020 in Photos

As the cold weather settled in early Tuesday evening I headed over to Seymour Street to catch a glimpse of Vermont Rail’s Holiday Lights train on its statewide journey.

I thought I might find a few train enthusiasts out and about but was unprepared to see Seymour Street and the Marble Works lined with cars full of families bundled up and animatedly awaiting the train’s arrival. It was a timely reminder of the spirit of the holidays.

Another example of that spirit is arriving downtown this week. Mary Hogan students are creating artwork—“to spread hope and light”—for display in the windows of our downtown stores. The first group, celebrating Robert Frost’s Birches, went up on the windows of the Town Offices earlier this week.

This is our last weekly update of the 2020 construction season—work comes to a halt for the winter next Wednesday, December 23—and so I thought I would close things out by sharing share some of my favorite photographs that helped tell this year’s story.

Photo 1. January 8. The future site of the Middlebury rail tunnel as seen from the roof of the National Bank of Middlebury’s Duclos Building. Kubricky is excavating the location of a stormwater drainage structure on the St. Stephen’s side of the rail corridor that will eventually connect underneath the rail line with a similar structure on the Triangle Park side.

Photo 2. May 19. On March 25, Governor Scott, concerned about the impact of Covid-19 in Vermont, shut construction down statewide. Seven weeks later, Middlebury was one of the first projects allowed to restart. One of the first orders of business was to drill minipiles across Main Street on either side of the rail corridor to support upcoming excavation. Here Maine D&B is drilling a minipile into the sidewalk directly in front of the Duclos Building.

Photo 3. May 28. To prepare for the 10-week shutdown of Main Street and Merchants Row—now scheduled to begin on Monday, July 13—Kubricky removed the temporary bridge over the rail corridor on Merchants Row that had replaced the 1920s-era bridge in Summer 2017. Here, seen through a tangle of electrical and telecom lines, a 200-ton hydraulic crane is about to set the temp bridge down on Merchants Row, where it will be dismantled and trucked to storage.

Photo 4. June 22. All hands on deck to prepare the rail corridor for excavation during the 10-week shutdown. Kubricky and Maine Drilling & Blasting are working on the support of excavation installed alongside the back end of Triangle Park. The Main Street temporary bridge is still in place in the background.

Photo 5. June 29. Watched by a crowd of curious bystanders, Bay Crane and Kubricky complete assembling the 300-ton crane that will be used to pick and set in place precast concrete sections of the rail tunnel, each of which weighs some 40 tons. The crane—whose boom sits 194 feet high and which weighs some 650,000 pounds—will dominate the Middlebury landscape for the next several weeks.

Photo 6. July 14. Main Street and Merchants Row are closed to thru traffic on July 13 and 10 weeks of 24/7 construction begin with two weeks of intensive excavation in the rail corridor. The pandemic has temporarily closed or limited the hours of downtown businesses, several of which have pivoted to online ordering and curbside pickup.

Photo 7. July 23. The future leaders of Middlebury were frequent visitors to the construction site this summer. Here a group from Mary Johnson Children’s Center shows off their new reflective vests from Kubricky and hard hats from the National Bank of Middlebury. Before I took the photo, I asked everyone to make a silly face. Some of the adults seemed less keen to do that.

Photo 8. July 24. With excavation of the rail corridor complete, the first of 94 precast concrete pieces that will form the Middlebury rail tunnel is set in place against the backdrop of the Battell Block and a squadron of project team members. A larger and equally rapt audience has taken up quarters alongside St. Stephen’s, the vantage point of this photograph, to watch the action day and night.

Photo 9. July 26. Work progresses quickly. Two days after setting the first piece of the rail tunnel, Kubricky has set all u-walls on the south end of the project. ECI will follow with drainage lines, rail ballast, rail tracks, and a retaining wall extending further south. That’s the Bourdon Insurance building on the left and Cross Street Bridge in the background.

Photo 10. August 3. The rail tunnel, top and bottom, is now complete and the 300-ton crane is being disassembled in Triangle Park. The two 200-ton cranes in the photograph will set the remaining u-walls on the north end of the project during August.

Photo 11. September 17. Final touch-ups underway in preparation for reopening downtown. Merchants Row has been paved, parking restored, and the sidewalk in front of the Battell building—now six feet wider to accommodate future outdoor dining—completely rebuilt with granite curbing, granite cobblestones, new lamp posts, and newly planted honey locust trees.

Photo 12. September 18. Main Street and Merchants Row reopen two days early on Friday, September 18—a picture-perfect day that brought hundreds of Middlebury’s citizens downtown to mark the occasion. Middlebury Selectboard Chair Brian Carpenter and Vermont Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn cut the official ribbon and a brief parade follows to honor Middlebury’s frontline workers. Click here if you’d like to relive the events.

And with that, we bid the 2020 construction season farewell. I hope you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season, and here’s wishing us all a good year ahead in 2021.

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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