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2020 Update #39

Construction of Downtown Tunnel Begins Friday

The Highlights

  • Excavation of rail corridor nearing an end

  • Construction of downtown tunnel to highlight next three weeks

  • Parking on South Main Street temporarily coned off

We’ve gotten so used to the state of construction downtown in and around the rail corridor during the past three years that it’s eye-opening to see the rapid transformation now taking place during the first 10 days of the shutdown of Main Street.

If you have an opportunity to do so, I’d really encourage you to come downtown and take a look for yourself.

A good time is early evening after rush hour, when you can park in front of the Post Office and watch from the walkway alongside St. Stephen’s. Or you can park behind the Ilsley Library and walk right down Main Street to the intersection with Merchants Row.

Speaking of getting downtown, I wanted to remind you that VTrans and ACTR have partnered to run a continuous-loop shuttle to help you get around downtown while the bridges are out of service. You can view the Shuttlebury schedule and route map here.

ACTR has asked me to remind you that in addition to waiting at any one of the downtown stops for the shuttle, you can call them at 388-2287 and the Shuttlebury will come pick you up at any reasonable location in the downtown area. So if it’s hot and humid, raining, or your feet just need a rest, check out the Shuttlebury.

Your Weekly Construction Update

Phase 1 of the 10-week construction schedule has focused on excavating up to 12 feet of soil from the rail corridor. Much of that work is now complete.

ECI has excavated the north end of the project between the Seymour Street fire station and the Elm Street overpass while Kubricky has excavated between the bridges to just south of the Battell Block.

In the 10 days since construction began, nearly 20,000 cubic yards have been removed from the rail corridor. Some 15 dump trucks have been on the road around the clock hauling that soil to various locations to keep the project on schedule.

I think our community has done a great job not just of navigating the road detours but of doing so at a time when many construction vehicles are moving in and around town. There are inevitable holdups at rush hour but overall traffic seems to be moving well. The temporary ban on left turns onto Cross Street from South Pleasant Street really seems to have helped traffic flow.

Blasting Comes to an End

In between the excavation on the north and south ends of the project, Maine Drilling & Blasting completed its tenth and final blast of the shutdown to remove ledge on either side of the site of the Main Street bridge. Dating back to 2018 and the construction of the Launch Pit in Printer’s Alley, the Maine D&B blasting crew has kept our citizens and our buildings safe through more than 50 blasts.

With blasting complete, Kubricky will hammer out the remaining ledge and then finish excavating the rail corridor early next week.

In the meantime, ECI and Kubricky began laying down the geotextile fabric and crushed stone that form the sub-base on which the precast concrete tunnel pieces and retaining walls will rest.

In the photo below, a new piece of equipment—known as “The Slinger”—is shooting crushed stone 30 feet down into the rail corridor.

The Main Event

With the rail corridor largely excavated and blasting completed, it’s now time for the summer’s main event: the construction of a 350-foot-long downtown tunnel that will replace the Main Street and Merchants Row bridges and restore our Town Green to its original dimensions. (The future Triangle Park will be roughly four times its former size when opened up next Spring.)

Construction of the tunnel will initiate a period of continuous trucking in of precast from the Fifield Farm on Route 30 to central downtown.

To prepare for that, on Wednesday evening Kubricky coned off parking on South Main Street from the Mahaney Arts Center all the way down toward the roundabout. As I mentioned last week, the larger u-walls overhang the right side of the flatbed truck by five feet requiring those parking spots to be temporarily eliminated.

Phase 2 of construction will likely cause temporary delays at the roundabout. Because of the tight quarters at the intersection of Main Street and Merchants Row, each flatbed truck carrying precast to Triangle Park will have to come partway around the roundabout and then back down Main Street. Uniformed traffic officers will help manage traffic during this part of the operation.

The first tunnel piece is scheduled to be set in place on Friday.

An Update from Neighbors Together

Have you seen the Apron Brigade around town? Another innovative initiative from Neighbors Together, the Apron Brigade is a group of community volunteers who are available to help downtown businesses and organizations during the 10-week closure.

You might see them watering plants, picking up mail at the Post Office, sweeping the sidewalks, or any number of useful tasks while spreading hospitality and welcome to visitors and locals who are shopping and dining in town.

They'll usually have information to distribute about upcoming Neighbors Together events and activities so look for the Apron Brigade in their bright yellow aprons sporting the Neighbors Together logo. The Apron Brigade encourages everyone to come downtown!

And this just in from the Better Middlebury Partnership and Neighbors Together: during the Great Middlebury Pig Out last week the community spent some $16,000 at our area restaurants. Nearly 400 people submitted their restaurant receipt for an opportunity to win $500 in Middlebury Money. The winners were Pete Nelson, Kelly Munger, and Amy Graham.

The Better Middlebury Partnership estimates that the various promotions to date have generated an economic impact downtown of $44,000.

Finally, what a wonderful thing to see the world through kids’ eyes. The photo below shows a group of Middlebury’s youngest from Otter Creek Day Care sporting their new reflective vests from Kubricky and hard hats from the National Bank of Middlebury. That’s Grover Usilton from NBM on the left and Kubricky’s Bob Hyatt, Suzanne Paul, and Nathan Speanburg on the right. Plus a whole lot of smiling faces.

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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