2020 Update #5

Amtrak Rail Platform Update, Closing Out January

The Highlights

  • Public information meeting on the Amtrak Rail Platform

  • Winter work update

Wednesday night I attended a public information meeting on the Amtrak Rail Platform scheduled to be built downtown in Fall 2020/Spring 2021.

This project is separate from the downtown bridge and rail project—it’s being managed locally by Middlebury’s Director of Planning & Zoning, Jen Murray—but clearly there’s a lot of overlap.

Once our downtown rail corridor is rebuilt and the Main Street and Merchants Row bridges restored with a tunnel, the way is clear for Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Service out of New York’s Penn Station to extend north from Rutland to Burlington with station stops in Middlebury and Vergennes-Ferrisburgh. Service will start up in 2021 or 2022 depending on how ongoing discussions between the State and Amtrak play out.

Hosted by VTrans, which is administering the federal grant that is funding construction of our rail platform, the public meeting in the Town Offices was well attended, primarily by local residents concerned about the impact of the platform on their neighborhood.

You may remember that a year-long process resulted in the selection of the back entrance to the Marble Works (formally known as Middle Seymour Street) as the site of the rail platform. That platform will be 300 feet long and covered by a canopy for 200 feet of its length.

The platform will be lit with overhead lights and that, too, was a topic of conversation among residents concerned about those lights shining into their houses and overall light pollution in Middlebury. Benches and an ADA lift round out the platform construction plan.

You can view the details of the plan, developed by Jacobs Engineering Group, here.

The safety of pedestrians and motorists in the tight spaces of Middle Seymour Street and its notorious S curve was also a topic of conversation.

A separate grant is funding the town’s construction of 16 parking spaces, a bus stop, a new sidewalk, and improvements to existing sidewalk. The intent is that arriving passengers could walk into town (to the Middlebury Inn, for example) by following the sidewalk underneath the Elm Street overpass and down Seymour Street to Main Street, rather than through the Marble Works.

Otter Creek Engineering is designing this part of the project. You can view their draft engineering plan here. Landscaping plans are still in development.

Your Weekly Construction Update

As January draws to a close, slow but steady progress continues to be made in the two winter work areas downtown.

At the north end of the project in the Marble Works, ECI has now completed installing sheet piles in a 200-foot section of the rail line. That leaves about 500 feet to go, which will bring them to just south of the old at-grade crossing between Seymour and Middle Seymour.

As I mentioned last week, ECI brought in a smaller vibratory hammer to reduce the impact of driving sheets on neighboring businesses and residences. The purpose of this work, as has been one of our key themes since August, is to stabilize the slopes on either side of the rail line before it is excavated and rebuilt in June and July.

An interesting side note on the sheet pile work. ECI discovered what appears to be an old railroad siding that runs alongside the main rail line about two feet below the track surface when they hit old wooden ties while driving piles. ECI is currently doing some more digging to determine the extent of the siding.

Over between the two bridges, Kubricky continued to slog its way through cold weather and soggy soil to excavate and install timber lagging at the site of a new manhole structure below St. Stephen’s. Kubricky has now excavated down to about 10 feet below track level on its way to 20 feet below the current track surface.

And if your travels have taken you out Route 30 south of town, you’ll have noticed that Kubricky is preparing sites on either side of the road at Fifield Farm to serve as staging areas for the precast concrete for the downtown tunnel and for excavated soil. Please drive carefully in this area, especially if you’re leaving Middlebury. It comes up real fast and construction vehicles are entering and exiting the area.

That’s all for today. See you downtown.

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

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