Two bridges in downtown Middlebury will be replaced with temporary steel bridges in June.
Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn issued an emergency order Monday that allows for the bridges to be installed in advance of a planned replacement of the 100-year-old bridges in 2020.
The state had hoped to keep the current bridges in place until a new $50 million tunnel-like project is completed, but VTrans engineer Wayne Symonds says they decided to remove the bridges now before an emergency closure was necessary.
“What we saw in the last few weeks is that we’ve had some pop-outs and some concrete delaminating from the bottom. And what we decided is that while they remain safe right now, the condition was deteriorating at a pace where we may have to consider closing them in the future if the condition worsened, he said. “So we're taking a pro-active approach to replacing the bridges so we can plan that with the community.”
Work is underway to ensure that the bridges are safe until the temporary bridges are installed over a one-week period in June. The bridges on Merchants Row and Main Street, Vermont Route 30, allow trains to travel below street level in the downtown.
At a select board meeting Tuesday night, VTrans will present plans to address parking and mobility issues created by the temporary spans.
Select Board Chair Brian Carpenter says the state has addressed concerns about pedestrian access.
“As a part of their plan they have included a pedestrian bridge on each of the Main Street and Merchants Row temporary bridges, which for us was a critical part of maintaining the accessibility of downtown for all people,” he said.
Carpenter says the town remains concerned about the potential for loss of parking spaces when the temporary bridges are in place.
VTrans had planned to begin pre-construction work on the permanent replacement project this spring, but those plans were put on hold after a local business owner sent a letter asking for more environmental review.
VTrans hopes to secure the permits necessary to being work on the project next spring, but the temporary bridges will be in place for at least three years, and will be replaced during a 10-week road closure in 2020.