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2020 Update #28

10-Week Shutdown Dates Set

The Highlights

  • Construction of downtown tunnel expected to start on or about July 13

  • Main Street to close briefly next Wednesday morning

The turning point in the long and at times charged history of our downtown rail and bridge project took place at the East Middlebury United Methodist Church in August 2016.

It was in a meeting there that the Middlebury Selectboard and VTrans leadership agreed to reset the entire project and committed to rebuilding a somewhat frayed partnership. There would be new leadership, a new schedule, and a new approach to engaging Middlebury in the planning process.

That meeting and the decisions that followed set the stage for all that has occurred since.

One of the first decisions was to scrap the then-current plan to rebuild our downtown bridges and rail corridor during two years of 20-hour-a-day work. Instead, the major construction activity would take place during 10 summer weeks of around-the-clock work.

To accomplish that, construction of a new stormwater system, new water and sewer lines, extensive support of excavation in the rail corridor—all the work that we’ve witnessed following the Summer 2017 installation of the temporary bridges—would need to take place in advance of what came to be known as the 10-week shutdown.

Four years later we’ve now arrived on the verge of those 10 weeks, with the finish line of the project waiting not too far away on the other side.

Shutdown Dates Finalized

At Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, VTrans Project Manager Jonathan Griffin announced that the 10-week shutdown would begin on or about Monday, July 13, and wrap up three weeks into September.

During those 10 weeks, as I’m sure you know well by now, the Main Street and Merchants Row bridges will be replaced with a 350-foot-long precast concrete tunnel. And 3,500 feet of the downtown rail corridor will be completely rebuilt, from the trestle bridge over Otter Creek on the south end to the Middlebury railyard on the north end.

To “clear the deck,” when the shutdown starts Vermont Rail trains will be detoured up the eastern side of the state and Main Street will be closed to thru traffic between North Pleasant Street and Bakery Lane/Mill Street. As you know, Merchants Row is already closed to thru traffic.

We’ll get deeper into the logistics and timeline of the shutdown in the weeks ahead but for now let’s turn our attention back to this week’s work and then look ahead to next week.

Brief Closure of Main Street Next Week

Early next Wednesday morning—roughly between 6:30 and 7:30 AM—Main Street will close between the Cross Street roundabout and Seymour Street so that Kubricky can do a test run of precast from Fifield Farm to the intersection of Main Street and Merchants Row. This is the path that 422 pieces of precast will follow later in July. Cross-town traffic will be detoured onto the Cross Street Bridge.

Your Weekly Construction Update

As the photo below shows, the lower section of Merchants Row is looking less like a roadway and more like an area under heavy construction. As the week drew to a close, Kubricky completed installing threaded steel tie rods to connect the parallel lines of minipiles drilled across the roadway. This will stabilize the ground on which the 300-ton crane will be operating to lift the precast tunnel sections into place.

Between the bridges, Kubricky has nearly completed hammering and grinding its way through ledge and next week will install and backfill the drainage pipe that forms a central section of the new system to improve stormwater management in central downtown and in the rail corridor.

The Merchants Row temporary bridge is now gone, disassembled on Wednesday and trucked back for storage to the VTrans maintenance yard in Middlesex.

The Maine D&B crew continued drilling tiebacks in the support of excavation that runs alongside the Battell driveway and Kubricky continued lagging just north of that. As we’ve seen, the support of excavation work that is critical for supporting this summer’s deep excavation of the rail corridor is a labor-intensive process.

There was more progress to report at the farm we all now know by name. Out at the Fifield south marshaling yard, Hulett Trucking continued its daily delivery of precast. By end of the day Friday, another 60 pieces of precast will have been delivered, bringing our total at the yard to 242 of 422 pieces.

In other news, ECI is within a few feet of completing their work driving those steel sheets on the north end of the project. Once that job is complete, ECI will begin installing temporary light poles along the rail corridor for overnight work during the shutdown.

Either next week or the following, Kubricky will remove the above-ground waterline that crosses the rail corridor alongside the Main Street footbridge as well as the stone wall supporting it. That work will likely require closing Printer’s Alley and the footbridge for part of the day.

And finally, East Coast Signals was in town this week to install Wavetronix SmartSensors on the arms of the traffic lights at the intersection of Cross Street and Court Street. These sensors will give the Town and VTrans greater flexibility in adjusting the stop lights on Route 7 to try to keep traffic moving during the 10-week shutdown.

That’s all for today. See you soon.

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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