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2020 Update #42

Now You Can Start To Imagine What Our Downtown Will Look Like

The Highlights

  • New sidewalks for Merchants Row and Main Street

  • Getting ready for new light poles and trees downtown

During the first phase of the Main Street shutdown, the work downtown seemed to have a single point of focus. Excavation of the rail corridor dominated those first several days. Then construction of the rail tunnel took center stage.

Now that we’ve arrived at the halfway point of this summer’s construction and those two major phases are complete, work is progressing on several fronts simultaneously.

For this week’s update, let’s review what’s happening “above ground” to restore central downtown and then look at the work taking place “below ground” to prepare for an operational rail tunnel.

Rebuilding Central Downtown

Much of the excavated space around the rail tunnel has now been backfilled with soil, stone, or the cement mix known as flowable fill.

Visually, that’s really changed the look of construction downtown. For a good two years now we’ve been looking at—and you’ve been reading about—all the support of excavation needed to stabilize the rail corridor during this phase of construction.

Steel minipiles, tiebacks, walers, timber lagging, shotcrete—in the center of town now it’s mostly gone, either buried in backfill or cut off below grade. So you can now begin to imagine what downtown will look like at the end of the project.

And as I mentioned last week, things are happening quickly.

In the first photo below, taken 9 AM Thursday morning, Kubricky had “boxed out” Main Street in front of the National Bank down to the road’s subgrade. In the second photo, taken three hours later, the stone sub-base for the road had been trucked in and spread, readying Main Street for eventual paving.

New Sidewalks Downtown

This week Kubricky began what will be about a two-week process of rebuilding our downtown sidewalks in front of the Battell building and on Main Street between Sweet Cecily and the National Bank. You may recall that the sidewalk in front of Battell will be extended an additional six feet into the roadway to create a more pedestrian-friendly walkway.

The first step is removing curbs and concrete sidewalk slabs. In their place Kubricky will place compacted stone and then begin installing bases and conduits for new light poles downtown and tree cells for the trees that will be planted in front of Battell and in Triangle Park. (Tree cells provide an underground soil base for trees planted in paved areas like the Merchants Row sidewalk.)

Once that work is complete, Kubricky will install granite curbing and pave the sidewalks with concrete.

All businesses will remain open at all times during the sidewalk rebuilding operation. It may look like a sidewalk under construction but you can get where you need to go on Main Street and Merchants Row!

Also as I mentioned last week, the concrete deck for the section of the Merchants Row roadway that will cross the rail tunnel was poured on Monday and is now covered and curing. The Main Street deck will be poured early Saturday morning and then begin its 10-day cure period. You can see it being formed up in the background of the two photos above.

Behind St. Stephen’s and adjacent to the rail tunnel, Kubricky is installing underground what is known as a Stormceptor System to reduce sediment and other pollutants in stormwater. This is one of the ways in which new infrastructure will improve the water quality of Otter Creek.

Rail Corridor Work

In the rail corridor behind South Pleasant Street, ECI is close to completing the retaining wall that extends south from the last u-wall pieces, as shown in the photo below. Once that’s done, ECI will shift north and install a retaining wall from the old at-grade crossing off Seymour Street north to the railyard.

The Kubricky crew will turn to installing “upper wall panels”—precast pieces that sit on top of the bottom u-walls north and south of the tunnel and raise the sides to the level of surrounding grade.

And there’s still a lot of work to be done grouting and installing water-proofing membranes in the bottom u-wall pieces north and south. The photo below shows the north u-walls as the rail corridor bends slightly toward what will be the new Amtrak rail platform.

That’s a lot of activity! But that’s where we are at the midpoint of this summer’s construction.

Bundle in the Park

Remember Bundle, the innovative pop-up storefront on Main Street that hosted so many interesting workshops and events last year?

Bundle’s creative consultant and manager Kelly Hickey has reimagined the pop-up concept as “Bundle In The Park,” a safe, socially distanced outside pop-up featuring creative game play, inspirational sketchbook/journal prompts, jokes and riddles, and fun challenges to test your physical and mental strength.

Bundle in the Park takes place every Thursday between 10 AM and Noon in Riverfront Park in the Marble Works near the big yellow chair. All ages are welcome and it’s totally free. If you’re curious, take a walk over next Thursday.

Bundle will also host a “Pop-Up Artist Market” on Saturday, August 29, from 10-2 in Riverfront Park that will be outside in the fresh air and meet all VT safety guidelines. You can keep up to date on Bundle’s future activities at its Facebook page here.

BBQ Chicken Dinner

The Middlebury Lion’s Club is getting the grills ready for its annual Chicken BBQ, which will take place next Wednesday, August 19, 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM at the Middlebury VFW. Each meal includes half a chicken, baked beans, macaroni salad, a bun, and of course a cookie.

Dinner is takeout, cash or check only. Kubricky has already ordered 60 chicken dinners for its day and night crew so be sure to get there early!

The Battell Bridge Story

Many of you may already know the story of the back and forth between the Middlebury Selectboard and the Battell family that led to the construction of the Battell Bridge downtown on Main Street in 1893. I knew some of the details but was fascinated to read the Sheldon Museum’s recent post of a short history of that project written by Jan Albers.

Like the rail tunnel now under construction, the Battell Bridge was a milestone in our town’s life. You can read the article and see a photo of Henry Sheldon making sure he was the first to cross the bridge (or was he?) here.

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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