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2020 Update #10

182 & Counting, Getting Downtown

The Highlights

  • A look at downtown during summer construction

  • Winter work redux

Just out of curiosity I decided to count up the number of construction updates I’ve written since the first one rolled off the digital press in April 2017.

If you’ve been reading these regular updates since then, you deserve some kind of medal. This is your 182nd update and you probably know more about this project than some of the people working on it!

If you’re a more recent reader, welcome. And if you’re in a browsing mood, there’s a lot of good info on this project in the update archives.

Getting Around Central Downtown This Summer

So here’s the challenge. For 10 weeks this summer, you won’t be able to drive downtown on Main Street or Merchants Row. Parking in the center of town will be even more limited. Getting from one side of town to the other will involve some planning and maybe some extra walking.

But your community needs you to make the effort to get downtown and support your favorite businesses and restaurants during those 10 weeks. That’s why those extraordinary volunteers at Neighbors Together are working on a Get Down Town campaign and why dozens of special events and activities are being planned to bring you and your friends and family downtown to watch a once-in-a-lifetime construction project while celebrating your community and taking advantage of some super savings.

With all of that in mind, this week I thought we would continue looking at the traffic control plans that the Agency of Transportation and Middlebury have developed with the traffic engineering team at VHB.

The plan below presents a bird’s-eye view of central downtown during the 10-week closure of Main Street, which I know you know by now starts Wednesday, May 27. There’s a fair amount of detail here but let’s focus on the key things you’ll want to know about getting around downtown.

Let’s start with Merchants Row, over on the left. As you can see, that roadway will be closed from Main Street up to the intersection with South Pleasant Street and Court Square. The slip road that runs between the war memorial and Town Hall Theater will remain open to allow access to THT’s driveway for trash removal.

You’ll also notice that two handicapped parking spots have been added alongside THT on South Pleasant Street to replace those lost on Merchants Row. The sidewalk will remain open between Town Hall Theater and Grace Baptist Church in the upper stretch of Merchants Row and in front of the Battell Block but you won’t be able to cross the rail corridor walking, either here or on Main Street.

The Battell driveway will be closed throughout this period, with access to the Battell lot via the temporary access road that runs from Water Street alongside Otter Creek.

Now onto Main Street, which will be closed where it intersects Seymour Street. (At the other end, it will be closed just after Bakery Lane and Mill Street.) The two barricades you see there are a little misleading. You will be able to park in front of the Post Office, where there are 7 parking spaces alongside the Town Green, one of which is handicapped; one handicapped space directly in front of the Post Office; and three spaces in front of the Community House. Flaggers will help director motorists in and out of this area.

The sidewalks on either side of Main Street will be open to St. Stephen’s and to the Post Office. Walking in from the roundabout, both sidewalks will remain open as far as the National Bank on the east side and the Battell Block on the west side.

It isn’t clear from this diagram, but I’m expecting Printer’s Alley to be closed for safety reasons throughout the 10-week shutdown of Main Street and Merchants Row.

The traffic control plans don’t show the many creative wayfinding signs that will be posted around downtown to guide locals and visitors to their destination. That effort is being led by Neighbors Together and we’ll have much more to report on that in the coming weeks.

Shuttlebury Update

Recently I announced that VTrans is funding a shuttle that will run in a continuous loop between the Marble Works and Main Street starting May 1. The Shuttlebury, as it will be called, will make three stops in the area shown on the downtown traffic control plan: 1) near the Post Office, 2) alongside Town Hall Theater, and 3) at the intersection of Main Street and Merchants Row. I’ll publish the full route with all stops in a future update.

In the meantime, I have an update on hours of operation for the Shuttlebury. Monday-Saturday it will run from 8 AM to 6 PM. On Wednesday and Friday, hours will be extended to 8 PM as our downtown stores stay open and Neighbors Together rolls out its weekly events celebrating downtown. On Sunday, the Shuttlebury will run from 8 AM to 2 PM. More info to come.

Your Weekly Construction Update

The first week of March brought no real change to the winter construction work we’ve been tracking since turning the calendar to 2020.

At the north end of the project in the Marble Works, ECI continues to make slow progress driving those steel sheets into the ground. As of Thursday, they have worked to a point just past the National Bank’s Seymour Street branch parking lot. Unpredictable train times have shortened most of their workdays.

Between the two downtown bridges, Kubricky continues to excavate and install timber lagging at the site of the two new manhole structures below St. Stephen’s. From the back walkway of the church, you can almost see to the bottom of the easternmost pit, which is nearly 20 feet below track surface.

Fifield Farm seems to be about ready to go. I’m hearing that the first pieces of precast concrete will arrive from Fort Miller’s fabrication plant in New York later this month.

Friday’s forecast calls for a high of 42 and snow. Can Spring be far away?

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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