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2020 Update #44

We Head Into the Final Three Weeks

The Highlights

  • New granite curbing and sidewalks for Main Street and Merchants Row

  • New tracks for the rail corridor

The last day of August will make the start of the final three weeks of our 10-week closure of Main Street and Merchants Row.

As we’ve seen throughout August’s updates, a lot of activity is taking place simultaneously to reopen downtown and the rail line on September 21.

One of those activities, shown in the photo below taken Thursday morning, is the excavation of the upper stretch of Merchants Row. The stormwater structures show the approximate level of the finished grade of the roadway.

Rebuilding Central Downtown

This week Landshapes completed installing and backfilling the tree cells that we highlighted in last week’s update. Maples and honey locusts will be planted in front of Merchants Row and alongside the new Triangle Park a little later this Fall.

With the tree cells in place and downtown sidewalks removed, Waters Excavation out of Perkinsville VT arrived in town on Thursday to begin installing our concrete-backed granite curbing.

As I mentioned last week, Waters will first install the curbing and then new sidewalks in front of the Battell building on Merchants Row, on Main Street between Sweet Cecily and the National Bank, in front of St. Stephen’s on Main Street, and on the Town Green side of the upper stretch of Merchants Row.

In the photo below, the Waters crew is setting in place the first piece of granite curbing outside Edgewater Gallery at the intersection of Main and Merchants. You can see the curbing stockpiled in front of Battell in the second photo. A typical piece is 6 foot by 18 inches.

East View Electrical Services is installing the final light pole bases and completing the electrical work.

Another major piece of downtown infrastructure was completed this week as Kubricky re-installed a section of the Main Street waterline that supplies water to the Post Office and to Main Street buildings south to the Battell Bridge.

As you can see in the photo below, taken from the Post Office side of the rail corridor, the new waterline will sit on a concrete platform just below the north end of the rail tunnel. This new section of the waterline is currently being chlorinated and tested before going live.

Rail Corridor Work

Work in the rail corridor was every bit as busy as work above ground as the days tick down toward reopening the rail line to Vermont Rail’s freight traffic.

With all precast u-walls now in place and the retaining walls set north and south of the u-walls, the next step is to install cap walls north and south of the rail tunnel.

As we discussed last week, the cap wall is a gradually sloped concrete wall roughly one foot high that provides a finished top to the precast u-walls. Decorative railing will sit on top of the cap wall.

The cap walls will be placed by shotcrete. You may remember from our coverage of the support of excavation phase of the project that shotcrete is concrete applied through a hose at high velocity onto a surface. This part of the operation will be conducted by Patriot Shotcrete, a service disabled veteran small business out of Jersey City NJ.

ECI has now placed ballast mats and drainage pipes the entire length of the u-wall sections and has begun laying in the new rail line from south to north. The photo below, taken from the trestle bridge across Otter Creek at Water Street, shows the panelized track sections in place on top of the ballast stone. (You can see the 39-foot-long panelized sections sitting on the left of the photo.)

Next week ECI will begin trucking in the final ballast stone from the north end of the project. Once the cap walls are set, ECI will continue setting the track in place.

By the time Labor Day arrives, we should be looking at significant progress toward a finished rail corridor and a ready-to-reopen downtown.

The Big Giveaway

Don’t forget that that a great way to shop locally and support Middlebury businesses is by entering the Big Giveaway. Spend $25 at a locally owned store between August 15th and September 5th and enter to win one of five gift bundles—each valued at $500 or more. Check out the details 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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