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2020 Update #46

Main Street and Merchants Row Set To Reopen Friday, September 18

The Highlights

  • Main Street and Merchants Row now paved

  • Downtown sidewalks being rebuilt

  • Finishing touches in the rail corridor

If everything goes according to plan—and so far that plan has unfolded as expected throughout the 10-week closure of our downtown roadways—Main Street and Merchants Row will reopen to thru traffic next Friday for the first time since Monday, July 13.

That same day the first Vermont Rail freight train will pass through the new downtown rail corridor.

I’ll have more on the plans for reopening downtown next week but this week has seen a whirlwind of activity and a notable transformation of central downtown as we prepare to welcome back motorists and pedestrians. So let’s take a look at what’s taking place.

Restoring Main Street and Merchants Row

Following the break for Labor Day weekend, the workweek got underway early Tuesday morning with the Kubricky paving crew applying the first two “lifts” of pavement on Merchants Row.

A lift is simply a layer of asphalt. A “tack coat” is sprayed onto each lift to improve adherence.

Merchants Row and Main Street this week each received four lifts of asphalt pavement. A final top coat will be applied next year.

The photo below, taken Tuesday afternoon, shows how Merchants Row is being restored to its former width. Gone is the temporary bridge/sidewalk that sat about midway down the photograph since Summer 2017. The unpaved oval area on the right is the park side of a new mid-block crosswalk.

As a reminder, when Merchants Row reopens, it will remain a one-way road going uphill toward Court Square and South Pleasant Street.

The next photo shows a second lift being applied to Main Street on Wednesday afternoon. The asphalt is compacted and leveled in places by hand but primarily with the roller you see mid-photo.

In between the Kubricky crew member on the right and the VTrans inspector on the left in the photo is the site of a new crosswalk that will connect Triangle Park to the Marble Works and Riverfront Park.

Connecting our downtown green spaces was a key theme that emerged from the public meetings that defined the character of our two new downtown parks.

Another notable aspect of this photograph is the visual benefit of VTrans having buried underground the electric and telecom utilities that used to stretch right across this key downtown view.

On Friday, Kubricky will pave the Battell Block driveway that leads to its lower lot. That driveway will be reopened at the same time as Main Street and Merchants Row. The access road alongside Otter Creek will remain in place for a while to provide access to construction vehicles.

Rebuilding the Downtown Sidewalks

This week the Waters Excavation crew continued installing the granite curbing downtown. That curbing is handsome to look at and should hold up better than its concrete counterpart to the demands of our four seasons.

With much of the curbing in place, Waters began pouring the new sidewalk in front of the Battell Block, now six feet wider than before (another outcome of our public meetings on the new parks), with concrete provided by Carrara.

The photo bellow shows the first 20-foot-wide section of pavement being poured in front of Edgewater Gallery at the corner of Main and Merchants late Wednesday. The 2 x 4 mid-photo is a “screed board,” used to smooth and level the surface of the poured concrete.

Waters will continue working on the Battell sidewalk through the end of the week and then move to Main Street. Takeout at Sabai Sabai will be much easier starting next week!

When downtown reopens late next week, the Merchants Row sidewalk from the corner of Main up to Town Hall Theater will have been rebuilt as well as the Main Street sidewalk from Sweet Cecily to the Post Office and, on the Town Green side, from the Post Office crosswalk down to St. Stephen’s.

The sidewalk around Triangle Park and the Town Green side of Merchants Row will be paved later this month along with Printer’s Alley.

Printer’s Alley will reopen to pedestrians but initially as a compacted stone walkway. The roadway connecting Main Street to Marble Works will follow later this Fall.

Rail Corridor Work

The Patriot crew was back in town this week to continue installing the cap wall, that finished top for the u-walls that has featured in recent updates.

The photo below shows two of the crew at work applying “shotcrete” to the cap wall that will sit on the Town Hall Theater side of the rail corridor just south of Merchants Row. This is demanding work as successive layers of concrete are sprayed on and then troweled to a smooth finish.

The next photo shows the pedestrian railing that will sit atop the cap walls to provide a decorative finish and a safety factor. For those with a need to know, the railing is black anodized aluminum and is four feet high.

The granite blocks that line the side of the Battell driveway in the photo are among the many 170-year-old ashlar blocks that have been saved and will be used throughout the downtown to mark their historical importance to the town.

The cap wall work will continue on the north end of the project later this month.

In the rail corridor itself, ECI and Vermont Rail spent the week readying the tracks for operation.

Next week ECI will replace the ties now in place with what’s known as continuous welded rail, or CWR, which will improve rail safety and reduce noise. Each section of CWR is several hundred feet long.

Another Shot at BBQ Chicken

Did you miss out on the Lion’s Club BBQ chicken dinner last month? Good news: the Lions are back with their chicken dinner fundraiser next Wednesday, September 16, between 4:00 and 6:30 PM and once again at the Middlebury VFW. They tell me they’re cooking up 500 dinners this time so there should be plenty for everyone!

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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