Storm clouds loomed and an unseasonably cool wind blew as city manager Kevin Dorn, city councilors and director of public works Justin Rabidoux toured the Market Street reconstruction site on June 3.
“It’ll be about the same temperature in November,” council chair Helen Riehle quipped as Rabidoux spoke of the work to be completed before the project’s fall deadline.
Market Street reconstruction efforts began with a groundbreaking ceremony on June 28, 2018. This winter, crews worked from the middle of the street moving to the eastern end by Hinesburg Road in the spring, according to Rabidoux. Nearing the final leg of construction, crews have moved to the western end near Rick Marcotte Central School and the Dorset Street entrance. According to Dorn, efforts on the street are currently about one week ahead of schedule.
“We’ve been building it from the bottom up,” Rabidoux said, adding crews have been at work installing water lines, sewer lines, ductwork for electrical systems and other under-road infrastructure necessary before paving and completing the road. The finished Market Street will be raised 6.5 feet at its center, tapering off in either direction to adjoin existing roads. The street’s slope will put gravity to work, moving stormwater into its appropriate channels.
Other features along Market Street include the use of Cornell University’s Silva Cell technology to ensure healthy trees. Silva Cell tech uses a combination of soils that help direct the roots of the trees to help them flourish while also protecting sidewalk and road infrastructure.
“The primary goal is to ensure healthy, adequate soil for the tree,” Rabidoux said. “You want mature, pretty trees that will develop the proper canopy.”
The trees will come from a variety of species. Emerald ash borers and other predators have taught city officials the importance of diversification to prevent deforestation.
“Our city arborist does a really good job at being at the forefront of where some of these vulnerabilities lie,” Rabidoux said.
On the man-made side, workers laid curbing to narrow the road at the intersection of Market Street and Garden Street. This will slow vehicles and create a smaller crossing for pedestrians.
“We want this to be a pedestrian area,” he said, “so if you make it narrow people are going to slow down.”
On June 3, 98 feet of sidewalk had been poured and light pole bases were installed. Just a short distance from the intersection, workers had crafted a gabion wall built of wire baskets filled with stone. The baskets provide structural support for the wall beside the stormwater ponds, Rabidoux said. That wall is made with Vermont-sourced granite and will double as a waterside seating area.
As the project nears completion, waterfowl sculptures crafted by local artist Tyler Vendituoli will be installed alongside the stormwater ponds, according to Dorn. Plans for connectivity between City Center Park and the pond are in the works, he added.
The Market Street reconstruction project hasn’t been without challenge. Alongside the city’s construction efforts were projects including the now-finished Allard Square senior housing project, ongoing townhouse construction by David Shenk near Hinesburg Drive and the Champlain Housing Trust’s mixed affordable/market rate housing project in the middle of the street.
“It definitely got congested,” Rabidoux said, adding at any given time there were about three to four contractors on the street with about a dozen subcontractors in tow. Getting construction deliveries on the crowded site also proved a challenge.
Additionally, with the early May construction start on the western end of Market Street near Central School came complaints about traffic congestion during school pick up and drop off hours.
“Seriously SB? Is there not a better way to do this? Trying to get to Central School in the morning is nearly impossible,” wrote Sher Joy on a May 20 post to the SB VT Community Watch Facebook page. “I challenge any one of you to try to come to Central at 7:45 in the morning. I’ve lived in a lot of cities and I’ve never seen such poor planning.”
But the city held out as long as possible before commencing work near the school, Rabidoux said.
“Eventually, the schedule and Vermont’s short construction season dictated that we had to start work there,” he added.
According to Dorn, there were only a handful of complaints voiced to city hall and most people seemed understanding. “It’s not fun to have to deal with that but we’re a 365-day community,” he said. “We can’t shut things down to deal with this.”
And while stormwater disputes between the city and the school district stalled construction at 180 Market Street, they had no effect on the street reconstruction project itself, according to Dorn.
There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony this fall following the street’s completion, Dorn said.
“The completion of Market Street is really going to transform our downtown,” he added.