Middlebury Bridge & Rail Project FAQs

  1. Why are there temporary bridges in downtown Middlebury?
    In 2017 the Vermont Agency of Transportation determined the 1920-21-era bridges over the rail line had significant deterioration and did not want to risk failure before they could be replaced in 2020. The rail bridges were demolished and temporary bridges (on Main Street and Merchants Row] were installed in the summer of 2017.

  2. Why bother investing limited resources in rail when the need to upgrade Vermont’s roads, bridges, and transit is so great?
    Moving freight on the Western Corridor’s rail takes truck traffic off Route 7, 22A and other state routes, reducing wear and tear and congestion on these roads. One rail car can carry the equivalent load of four trucks! Also, plans are in the works to extend passenger rail service between Rutland and Burlington, with a stop in Middlebury by 2020.

  3. Was bridge rehabilitation given serious consideration?
    It was and dismissed as a viable option. No part of the existing bridge decks and supporting structures are considered salvageable and rehabilitation would not improve two current deficiencies that affect rail – the curved track and insufficient height for today’s standard double-stack freight railcars.

  4. Did anyone consider moving the railroad?
    Yes, that was one of four alternatives studied. A report  was issued to the Town of Middlebury in July 2013. The report concluded moving the railroad would create unacceptable impacts to existing buildings, historic resources and would have unreasonable costs.

  5. Why build a tunnel?
    When compared to replacing two bridges, the tunnel offers better safety, drainage and aesthetics (adds green space and connects Middlebury Village Green and Middlebury Village Historic District). Trains will pass through town with less noise. The tunnel option is supported by the Middlebury Selectboard as it responds  to the 2012 Town Plan to “close up the chasm that exists in the downtown area…”.

  6. How long will the tunnel be?
    About 360 feet

  7. What will be the tunnel’s clearance height for trains?
    At least 21 feet. Currently the vertical clearance of the Main Street bridge is 17’-10” and Merchants Row bridge is 17’-8.5”.

  8. How much green space will be added by this project?
    There will be about 0.2 acres of land over the tunnel. When the tunnel is completed, it will be covered with a landscaped area linking Triangle Park to the Village Green. Triangle Park had been part of the Green from the 1790’s until 1849 when the Rutland Railroad built the rail line through Middlebury.

  9. What will the downtown Middlebury parks look like after the rail tunnel construction?

    The new downtown tunnel will reclaim a large section of Middlebury's Town Green that was lost to the rail corridor in the 1840s. As shown in this landscaping plan, Triangle Park -- the section of the Town Green that borders the intersection of Main Street and Merchants Row in the heart of downtown Middlebury -- will become a mix of hardscape and green space to accommodate public events as well as casual relaxation. Across Main Street, the newly named Lazarus Park -- honoring the Middlebury family whose department store stood on this site for 50 years -- will feature an ADA-accessible pathway to Middlebury's Riverfront Park and Marble Works business district as well as a labyrinth funded by St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to create a contemplative space in the center of town. In both parks, historic granite blocks taken from the rail corridor will provide seating and historic context. See detailed landscape plan.

  10. Is there a plan for handling contaminated soils resulting from for over 150 years of rail use?
    Soils in the project area have been thoroughly tested for the presence of contaminants. A Corrective Action Plan was developed before construction began and is posted on this website.

  11. Was an environmental study done for this project?
    Yes. In 2017 an Environmental Assessment, including a Finding of No Significant Impact was completed. See report.

  12. What kind of disruption can the public expect due to construction?
    This is a HUGE project that will occur over four years. The biggest construction impact in downtown Middlebury will occur in 2020 when the rail tunnel is installed. Route 30 (Main Street) and Merchants Row will be closed to all traffic from late May to early August.

  13. Will VTrans encourage people to stay away from downtown Middlebury to reduce traffic?

    Absolutely not! The project has been planned so that Middlebury will be OPEN FOR BUSINESS throughout the summer, even during the most intense construction periods. There will be numerous discounts at shops and special events planned by local businesses and community groups such as Neighbors Together and Better Middlebury Partnership. Check out events and bargain offerings often at https://experiencemiddlebury.com

  14. How will people get around to shop, dine and do errands while Main Street and Merchants Row are closed?
    The Middlebury Mobility Committee, a group of local and regional officials and VTrans have developed a plan to keep people moving throughout the downtown. A map of downtown streets and wayfinding signs will clearly designate walking routes and parking. Addison County Regional Transit will provide transportation around the work zone by increasing frequency of its FREE FARE existing bus routes. Or people can ride the colorful Shuttlebury, a van that will make on a continuous 15-minute shuttle loop around the construction zone. Biking will be encouraged with the addition of more bike racks in downtown Middlebury.

  15. Can people get a close up view of construction?
    Yes. There will be two observation areas from which you can watch the 300-ton crane assembling Middlebury's new downtown tunnel on Wednesday evenings. One is at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on the Town Green. The other is across the street at the Community College of Vermont's Middlebury location in the Battell Block on Merchants Row. The contractor will also hold Wednesday evening Q&As with the community throughout the summer.

  16. Who are the key players on this project?

    This project is being managed by the Vermont Agency of Transportation. VTrans has selected VHB as the Lead Engineering Designer, and Kubricky Construction Corporation/DA Collins as Construction Manager/General Contractor. [REMOVE THIS CONTENT? rather than using the standard Design, Bid, and Build process.This allows the contractor to be selected in the design phase to provide input on schedule, cost and constructability. This collaboration, with oversight from VTrans, creates a more efficient design on an accelerated schedule. Additionally, the Town of Middlebury has a liaison dedicated working with the team full time.

 [If you have a question you would like to ask the project team, please send an email