Middlebury Bridge & Rail Project FAQs

  1. Why were 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. Those bridges have since been replaced with the rail tunnel.

  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, 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. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted plans to run or expand passenger service.

  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 and historic resources, and would have unreasonable costs.

  5. Why did VTrans decide to build a tunnel?
    When compared to replacing two bridges, the tunnel offers better safety, drainage, and aesthetics. For example, it adds green space and connects Middlebury Village Green and Middlebury Village Historic District. Trains can now pass through town with less noise. The tunnel option was 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 is the tunnel?
    The tunnel is about 360 feet.

  7. What is the tunnel’s clearance height for trains?
    The clearance is at least 21 feet. This is an improvement from the former vertical clearance of the Main Street bridge (17’-10”) and Merchants Row bridge (17’-8.5”).

  8. How much green space is being added by this project?
    There will be about 0.2 acres of land over the tunnel. Now that the tunnel is completed, the crews are refining landscaping to link Triangle Park to the Village Green. Triangle Park had been part of the Green from the 1790s until 1849 when the Rutland Railroad built the rail line through Middlebury.

  9. How does the project improve downtown Middlebury parks?
    The new tunnel reclaims a large section of Middlebury's Town Green that was lost to the rail corridor in the 1840s. As shown in these renderings, Triangle Park, the section of the Town Green that borders the intersection of Main Street and Merchants Row in the heart of downtown, will be a mix of hardscape and green space to accommodate public events as well as casual relaxation. Across Main Street, 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. Lazarus Park includes 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 is the scope of community impact during construction?
    This is a HUGE project that occurred over three years, and will continue into 2021. The biggest construction impact in downtown Middlebury occurred in 2020 during the installation of the rail tunnel. Route 30 (Main Street) and Merchants Row were closed to all traffic for 10 weeks in the summer.

  13. How did VTrans encourage people to visit downtown Middlebury during the closure?
    Despite the closure and a global pandemic, Middlebury was OPEN FOR BUSINESS throughout the summer of 2020, even during the most intense construction periods. The team worked closely with local businesses and community groups such as Neighbors Together and Better Middlebury Partnership to maintain a vibrant downtown where people could still get around. Visit the Experience Middlebury website to learn more.

  14. How did people shop, dine, and do errands while Main Street and Merchants Row were closed?
    The Middlebury Mobility Committee, a group of local and regional officials and project staff, developed a plan to keep people moving throughout the downtown. A map of downtown streets and wayfinding designated walking routes and parking. Addison County Regional Transit provided transportation around the work zone by increasing frequency of its FREE FARE existing bus routes. People also rode the colorful Shuttlebury, a continuous 15-minute shuttle loop around the construction zone. Biking was encouraged with additional bike racks in downtown Middlebury.

  15. Who are the key players on this project?
    This project is managed by the Vermont Agency of Transportation. VHB is the Lead Engineering Designer, and Kubricky Construction Corporation/DA Collins as Construction Manager/General Contractor. Additionally, the Town of Middlebury has a liaison dedicated working with the team full time. Read his fun and detailed blog here.

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