Last Friday’s sparkling sunshine and blue skies seemed to suggest better days ahead as hundreds of Middlebury citizens joined officials from the Town, VTrans, Kubricky, Vermont Rail, ECI, and VHB to celebrate the reopening of Main Street and Merchants Row to motorists and the downtown rail corridor to freight traffic, officially closing out the summer's 10-week shutdown 67 days after it began.
Formal ceremonies began at 10 AM, when, following a track-level ribbon-cutting just south of Merchants Row, a group of invited guests on Vermont Rail’s 1930s-vintage Green Mountain Railroad passenger railcars became the first to travel through Middlebury’s new rail tunnel.
An hour later, attention shifted to the corner of Main Street and Merchants Row, where Middlebury Selectboard Chair Brian Carpenter marked the occasion with brief remarks before being joined by Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn for a ribbon-cutting to reopen the downtown roadways.
The gathered crowd then waved and cheered as the first vehicles to drive up the newly rebuilt Main Street represented Middlebury’s Police, Fire, and Public Works departments as well as Middlebury Regional EMS and ACTR’s Shuttlebury service.
The next vehicles through looked a little disoriented trying to navigate the slowly dispersing crowds, but eventually routine returned and by Friday afternoon traffic was once again flowing up and down Main Street and up Merchants Row. (Merchants Row remains one way up the hill.)
In the spirit of the day, the National Bank of Middlebury and Danforth have now reopened their Main Street locations, joining Autumn Gold, Parlour, Middlebury Mountaineer, Buy Again Alley, Sweet Cecily, Sabai Sabai, Vermont Book Shop, Main Street Stationery, Forth ’N Goal, IPJ, Edgewater Gallery, and Indulge Salon & Spa, all of which are located in the downtown area that was closed to thru traffic and all of which continued to operate during construction.
A VTrans videographer and drone operator were in town Friday to record the event. If you weren’t able to make it downtown or would like to relive the experience, you’re going to want to check out this five-minute overview of Friday’s reopening, which you can watch here.
Brian Carpenter’ remarks summarized what I think many in Middlebury felt on Friday morning. Those are posted here if you’d like to read them.
And you can view the entire 10-week construction in central downtown in time-lapse mode as recorded from the roof of the Duclos Building here.
Finally, on behalf of the Town of Middlebury and VTrans and its construction partners, I want to thank you and our community for finding a way to work through and around this summer of construction. It was pretty much as advertised, though not, I hope, as bad as feared. And though construction continues downtown, the hard part is over. Let’s look ahead to see what next week holds in store.
Your Weekly Construction Update
Fall construction got underway this week as much of the focus now shifts to Triangle Park.
In the photo below Kubricky is coring a hole for a drainage pipe in a concrete water vault that will sit underground in Triangle Park and control operation of the fountain that will once again sit in the lower half of the park.
On Thursday, both Waters and Landshapes returned to town to continue building our new downtown sidewalks and landscaping downtown.
This week, as shown in the photo below, Waters is working on the bump-out at the top of Merchants Row—small granite blocks will be placed on top of the poured cement—and then expects to pour sidewalks in front of St. Stephen’s on Main Street and from Court Square down Merchants Row alongside the Town Green.
Landshapes is installing granite stones in the “double-curbed” areas in front of the Battell Block and Duclos building and will begin putting in place the historic ashlar blocks—now identified as limestone, not granite, thanks to a rock-savvy reader—as benches around the six maple trees that will sit on the perimeter of Triangle Park.
Kubricky expects to pour the first 90 feet of the north cap walls on Monday and to continue forming up and pouring the cap walls all the way to the old at-grade crossing across from Fire and Ice in the days ahead.
Up on the north end of the project, ECI completed tying in a new stormwater drainage line along Middle Seymour Street on Thursday and will shift to Seymour Street next week to install a new waterline at The Depot. Following that, ECI expects next week to pave Middle Seymour Street so expect alternating lane traffic again there at some point next week.
That’s all for today. See you downtown.
Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.