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Town, College break ground April 14 on second Otter Creek bridge

April 15, 2009

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-More than 100 people gathered along the banks of Otter Creek on Tuesday, April 14, to see the ceremonial ground breaking for the Cross Street Bridge.

John Tenny, chair of the Middlebury Select Board, said the completed bridge will mark "over 50 years of campaigns" to build a second crossing across Otter Creek in downtown Middlebury. "All of the efforts fell short," he remarked, until the Town of Middlebury and Middlebury College joined forces to bring the project to life.

Breaking ground for the $16 million bridge and roadway project are, left to right, Executive Vice President of Middlebury College Bob Huth, Select Board Member Dean George, College President Ronald D. Liebowitz, Select Board Chair John Tenny, and Select Board Member Victor Nuovo.

College President Ron Liebowitz told the gathering the bridge will improve safety in the town and be an engine for economic development in the region.

He said the roots of his interest in a second downtown crossing dated back to 1984 when he was an assistant professor in the Department of Geography. "I was in Warner Science looking over previous senior theses in the department, when I noted that no fewer than 11 students had cited the need for this project."

The bridge, which will span Otter Creek from Route 7 and Cross Street on the east side to Bakery Lane and Route 30 on the west, will take an estimated 19 months to build. It also includes extensive roadway improvements, and will be financed by a local option tax of one percent on sales combined with 30 years of bond payments made by the College in the amount of $600,000 per year. No state or federal money is supporting the project.

Dean George, select board member and chair of the Cross Street Bridge Committee, recalled that the late Archibald C. ("Arch") Tilford, a Middlebury resident and member of the class of 1936 at the College, provided the spark in 2004 to get the bridge project back on the drawing board. "We have a lot of people like Arch to thank," George said, "but this effort could have foundered without Middlebury College."

Standing in the sunshine behind Ilsley Library and south of the red-brick Battell Block, a sizeable crowd gathered to watch the ground breaking.

The new bridge will reduce traffic on the Battell Bridge on Main Street and on the narrow Pulp Mill Bridge, a traditional covered bridge on the Middlebury-Weybridge line, the Bridge Committee reported. It will also improve vehicle and pedestrian circulation, and improve safety and security on both sides of Otter Creek, according to the committee. The Cross Street Bridge will have separate lanes in both directions for vehicular traffic and for pedestrian-bicycle traffic.

VHB/Pioneer Engineering of North Ferrisburgh, Geo-Design Kubricky Construction of Glens Falls, N.Y., and J.P. Carrara and Sons of East Middlebury are the lead contractors on the project.

For more information about the bridge project, visit the VHB/Pioneer or Town of Middlebury's web pages dedicated to the project.