Temp access road to the Battell Block opens Monday, March 23
Merchants Row closing to thru traffic during the day Wednesday-Friday, March 25-27
How the world has changed in a week.
With much of our town temporarily shut down, the Middlebury Selectboard has asked the Vermont Agency of Transportation if any of this summer’s construction can be moved up. Here is AOT’s response.
"The Vermont Agency of Transportation and its partners, like all other state agencies and private corporations, is focused on managing through a very fluid and unpredictable global health crisis. At this time, VTrans is committed to adhering to this summer's construction timeline. While it may be possible to advance certain project tasks during this period when much of downtown Middlebury has closed, the State's priority at this time is ensuring that this highly complex project with its many moving parts remains on schedule."
Holding to the schedule during this unpredictable crisis is the priority and that in itself represents a significant challenge.
In a team meeting Thursday—conducted by phone as part of new protocols now in place—Kubricky and VTrans both reiterated that they are fully committed to on-time delivery of our downtown construction project, to keeping their workforce as healthy as possible and fully staffed, and to collaboratively managing the risks and unknowns that accompany this pandemic.
The closing of the downtown rail line and detouring of Vermont Rail up the eastern side of the state is the linchpin of this summer’s construction plan. It drives much of our timeline and I think it unlikely that the 10-week detour scheduled to start on May 27 will change.
But we will see other downtown construction moved up in the next month, as we’ll review below.
What’s Open, What’s Not
Before we move on to your weekly construction update—and there’s a lot to cover—I wanted to let you know that the Better Middlebury Partnership has done a superb job of tracking which stores remain open, which restaurants are doing takeout, etc.
You can access this information, which is updated daily, here.
And please continue to support the Middlebury business community in any way you can during this challenging time. As I write, my wife just ordered curbside pick-up from American Flatbread, ordered three books from Vermont Book Shop, and donated online to United Way’s campaign, “Addison Country Responds.”
Temporary Access Road Goes Live
As I mentioned last week, Kubricky will close the Battell Block driveway on Merchants Row Monday morning. It will remain closed through the end of this summer's closure of Main Street and Merchants Row on August 5.
This will give Kubricky a leg up on work during the closure period by allowing them to remove the ashlar blocks on the Battell side of the rail corridor between the Battell parking lot and the Merchants Row Bridge in March and April.
All traffic in and out of the Battell Block will now travel along the temporary access road that runs north from Water Street along Otter Creek and into the Battell parking lot.
This week Kubricky re-graded the access road and laid down a gravel base to prepare for vehicular traffic. (The road will not be paved.) Three-foot-high concrete barriers will sit on the river side of the road and orange barrels/flashing lights on the rail side. Lafayette is setting up traffic signs and traffic lights that will control traffic on the one-way roadway.
Return of the Minipiles: Merchants Row To Close for 3 Days Next Week
As I mentioned above, Kubricky and VTrans are moving up work that was scheduled for later this Spring, and we’ll see the first sign of that next week on Merchants Row.
Our friends from Maine Drilling & Blasting will mobilize back into town on Tuesday and begin installing minipiles in the lower section of Merchants Row to support the rail corridor excavation taking place later this summer.
Maine will install 10 minipiles in an area spanning from the curb in front of the former coffee shop to the middle of the road. To accomplish this work, Merchants Row will be closed to thru traffic during the day Wednesday through Friday next week.
The sidewalk in front of the Battell Block will remain open, including the walkway over the Merchants Row Bridge, but parking in front of the Battell Block will not be available during the day.
Merchants Row will reopen to traffic and parking will be restored at the end of each work day, approximately 5 PM.
To prepare for the minipile installation, Kubricky will saw-cut the roadway on Monday. No impact on traffic or parking.
In April, this work will shift to Main Street and I’ll have more on that in a future update.
Your Weekly Construction Update
This week, as planned, Kubricky continued excavating DMH-210. You may remember from last week’s update that DMH stands for drainage manhole and that 210 is located on the Battell side of the rail corridor.
The photo below shows work taking place in rather sodden conditions about 15 feet below track level. The bucket is delivering timber and steel bolts to the crew installing lagging to support the sides of the drainage pit.
Further south at Fifield Farm, the first pieces of precast concrete will start arriving on Monday. As I mentioned last week, Kubricky has assembled a 200-ton crane at the southern staging area in preparation for their arrival. Fort Miller will deliver an estimated six pieces a day individually on 30-foot-long flatbed trucks.
Back downtown, instrumentation and monitoring specialists Geocomp will be in town on Monday and Tuesday to install small monitoring prisms on several of our downtown buildings. These will allow the project to detect in real time any movement in the buildings being monitored during construction.
What About Those Steel Sheets?
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 afternoon, they are just north of Rice restaurant on Seymour Street.
Several folks asked me last week whether those sheets are going to remain in the ground. The answer is no. They are there to stabilize the rail slopes at the north end of the project during excavation and will be removed later this year. But for now, as the photo below shows, they provide an interesting view.
That’s all for today. See you downtown.
Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.