2021 Update #37
The community weighs in on Middlebury’s downtown construction project
Thank you to the nearly 200 readers of these weekly updates who took the time earlier this month to complete a 15-question survey designed by VTrans to document the community’s assessment of the downtown construction project and to shed light on how future construction projects might benefit from lessons learned in Middlebury.
Let’s get underway this week with a few representative comments drawn from the survey.
“Town looks great. What a difference. Better than ever. Very excited about Amtrak!”
“Overall, I couldn't be happier. The bridge, tunnel, and park represent a great improvement and when a train goes through, you can't even tell. It used to be the whole downtown would shake as a train went through.”
“Impossible to address every individual concern or to alleviate all financial impact to businesses, but I thought every effort was made on every level to help and support those most impacted.”
“Neighbors Together really helped turn the attitude from dread and despair to a positive vibe of resilience and community spirit. It sure as hell worked that way on me.”
“It was a big help to always know what was going on in general, and specifically to know when the exciting parts would happen so we could go downtown to watch.”
“I've never seen a construction project of this scale with as much information sharing.”
“Frequent communication lowered the temperature in town and brought us together. This disruption was something we were all facing. We got to know the companies involved. People were doing their best and that's all that we could have required.”
“Best run project from a schedule, communication, and professionalism standpoint that I've seen in my several years around the industry.”
This is not to say that everyone was pleased with the process or that the project’s impact wasn’t keenly felt by the downtown businesses, organizations, and residents who had to shoulder four years of often-intense construction.
As one resident put it, “The people living downtown experienced MANY sleepless nights for five years.” And I know that to be true for those living on Water Street, South Pleasant Street, the Battell Block, and Seymour Street.
Still, the general consensus seems to be, as one respondent put it, “Everything went as well as could be expected.”
You can access the full survey results, including wide-ranging commentary on the individual questions, here.
About the Survey
As you’ll see in Question 1, survey responders were sorted into two categories based on their relationship to downtown Middlebury: Locals (those who live and work in Middlebury and those who work in Middlebury but live elsewhere) and Regionals (those who live in another town and regularly visit or drive through Middlebury and occasional visitors to Middlebury).
Some 80% of responders fell into the Locals category. In Question 2, 90% of the Locals tell us they were downtown two or three times a week if not daily during construction so these folks experienced the construction up close.
It’s interesting to note that in Question 3 nearly two-thirds of Locals report that they made no change to the frequency of their visits to downtown Middlebury during construction or came down more frequently to support our businesses and/or to view the construction.
That is a direct result of the extensive work done by Neighbors Together volunteers and the Better Middlebury Partnership to maintain the well-being and vitality of our downtown businesses and organizations through a broad range of VTrans-funded marketing initiatives. This is your community rising to the challenge.
When asked, in Question 4, to record their overall level of satisfaction with the end result of the project, 83% of Locals said they were very satisfied while 14% were somewhat satisfied, a remarkably high degree of satisfaction that probably reflects not just what was accomplished but how it was done.
Other questions asked how well the project did in taking local concerns into consideration, about the level of engagement with the community through public meetings, the quality of project updates, and the performance of Kubricky and its subcontractors, many of whom, like Maine Drilling & Blasting, you’ve gotten to know through these updates.
This was one of the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s first projects to incorporate a local community liaison into the project team. It was gratifying to see that 98% of Locals felt that that investment paid off by creating a common understanding of the project’s phases and goals and by giving the community a voice that would be heard.
“The tone of the communication was accurate, empathetic, and created a sense of unity in the community that really helped us get through this incredibly complex and lengthy project.”
“I felt connected to this project in a way that I would not have otherwise.”
As our project passes into history, I hope you are able to take a few minutes to read through the survey results. I’ll be back with some final updates and thoughts on our project in December.
Let’s end with a final comment from the survey that may sum up how many now feel.
““The town of Middlebury has been forever changed for the better.”
And with that, here’s wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!
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.