Middlebury Bridge and Rail construction delayed temporarily

By LUCY TOWNEND

COURTESY PHOTO
Construction has been halted on the Middlebury Bridge and Rail Project as Stay Safe, Stay Home order stops non-essential activities. Town officials appealed to the state to resume the project on April 2.

What’s the current status of the project? 

The Middlebury Bridge and Rail Project was delayed on March 25 by Governor Scott’s Stay Safe, Stay Home order. The order stopped all non-essential construction projects in addition to mandating that Vermonters stay home unless performing essential tasks. It was recently extended through May 15.

The Middlebury town selectboard appealed to state officials on April 2 to ask the state to consider the Middlebury Bridge and Rail Project a “critical infrastructure” project. Approval would allow construction to continue on the project while downtown traffic is limited. The formal request included letters from the project contractor and Vermont Rail detailing the precautions that will be put in place to protect the health of workers if the project were to continue. 

Jim Gish, community liaison for the project, confirmed in an email to The Campus that the project still has not been approved by state officials as of April 14. Unless the state approves construction to continue, progress will cease until May 15. 

What is the Middlebury Bridge and Rail Project? 

The Bridge and Rail Project, overseen by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), will allow a passenger rail service to run from Rutland to Burlington for the first time since 1953. The project was originally estimated to cost around $71 million and is expected to be completed by 2021. 

The project was supposed to close down Main St. and Merchants Row to vehicle traffic for ten weeks during this summer, prompting concerns from local businesses about losing customers during the busy summer season, as well as staff who would see their commutes changed. Depending on the state’s decision, this construction schedule may be altered.  

The project’s main focus is replacing an old railway line with one that is continuously welded, resulting in smoother, faster transport for passenger rail. The latest stage in construction involves excavating a drainage manhole for stormwater between the two bridges and installing micropiles, small post-like structures, into the ground along Merchants Row. These micropiles are meant to support the rail corridor excavation. 

Upon completion of the project, a tunnel that allows the rail to pass under Triangle Park will replace the two temporary bridges currently on Main Street and Merchants Row.

For more information, visit the Middlebury Bridge and Rail Webpage at www.vtrans.vermont.gov 

Correction 7/30/20: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Bridge and Rail Project had an estimated cost of $71 billion. The correct figure is $71 million.