Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another petition against closing Sand Hill

A non-digital, pen-and-paper petition against closing the Sand Hill bridge is available at the General Store.

Here's the text:

Petition to:


During construction of the
Sand Hill Bridge

We are concerned about the impacts of closing Vermont Route 125 (and detouring traffic over the Brandon Gap) during construction of the Sand Hill Bridge in East Middlebury.

We ask VTrans to consider the following impacts of any significant period of closure:

1) Emergency response (both Fire and Ambulance) times to Ripton would be increased considerably.
2) Something approaching 2,000 trips per day would be added to traffic on the Upper and Lower Plains Roads and the North Branch Road.
3) Businesses in Hancock, Goshen, Ripton and East Middlebury that that depend on Route 125 would be severely impacted.

Please make every effort to maintain this vital east-west transportation corridor
either through the installation of a temporary bridge or through phased

Links: to the online petition; to the latest meeting

(thanks to Willem Jewett!)

Petition against closing Sand Hill bridge

One petition calls on VTrans not to close the Sand Hill bridge:

We, the undersigned, are concerned about the impact of closing Vermont
Route 125 and creating traffic detours across the Brandon Gap and Upper Plains
Road, during the prolonged reconstruction of the Sand Hill Bridge in East

We insist that VTrans consider the impacts of closure:

1. Emergency Services: Fire, Ambulance, Police times to Ripton would be increased considerably;

2. As many as 2000 trips per day would be added to traffic on both Upper Plains Road, the North Branch Road and Notch Road;

3. Businesses in Hancock, Goshen, Ripton and East Middlebury that depend on Route 125 would be severely impacted and unable to serve the community effectively.

Please maintain this vital east-west transport corridor through phased construction, or by installing one of Vermont's many temporary bridges.


The Undersigned

Previous post on the latest Sand Hill bridge meeting.

(thanks to Robert Wagner)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Last night's Sand Hill bridge meeting

Notes on this week's major meeting about the Sand Hill bridge project:

(NB: these notes are partial and incomplete, since I had to leave 90 minutes in)

Meeting occured in the East Middlebury Methodist Church. Two Vtrans engineers led the meeting; most of the pews were filled with East Middlebury and Ripton folk. Some stood.

Quick overview of Sand Hill bridge: it handles about 2000+ vehicles/day. It's an "arch bridge", and was built 1924. That 1924 date means mystery, at least in terms of what we know about the bridge's interiors. No plans survived, so engineers are not certain what lurks inside the arch.

Although Sand Hill has stood and served for decades, no one can determine its future safety with confidence, given the uncertainly surrounding its materials. A recent survey deemed its future "poor", adding urgency to plans for refurbishing or replacing it.

The two VTrans engineers presented their new plan. It involves maintaining the current bridge as an ornamental arch. New abutments will be added, on either side of the current bridge's ends; a new span will ride above the current bridge.

The new bridge includes a wider road, increasing the current width from 20 to 36 feet. This includes broadening the lanes, adding shoulders, and also adding on a sidewalk. Each lane will be 11 feet lane, and the shoulders stretch 3 feet from lane to edge.

Timeline: about one construction season, 3-4 months. VTrans thinks early construction incentives (cash) would help speed things along. May or June are likely starting months. Construction isn't likely to start anytime soon, as the VTrans engineers stated that they were back at square one for the project.

Many things need to be done for this to happen:

  • relocating utilities (electricity, maybe water)
  • stabilizing the East Middlebury side's slope. This could involve piling up rocks and dirt, or covering the slope with "geotextile", or even "soil nailing" (driving down longdowels).
  • adding extended retaining walls (maybe)

After these possible tasks were outlined, another then soaked up much discussion. This was the question of how to take care of traffic during contruction. Two options were presented.

  1. Setting up offsite detours was the VTrans preferred method. This means shunting heavy traffic (trucks) south to route 73. Lighter traffic (cares, buses, commuters) would have the choice of either taking North Branch Road, or the southern route through Lower and Upper Plains Roads. These offsite detours have the advantage of saving time.
  2. Building a temporary bridge, on either side of Sand hill. This would probably add a second season to the construction process, but have the advantage of allowing continued traffic without diversions.

Discussion followed with great intensity. To begin with, one speaker mentioned an emergency services problem, namely that the delay experienced by Middlebury EMS ascending the mountain along an alternate route could mean the difference between life or death. Fire support would probably never arrive in time to help.

Another speaker noted increasing safety problems likely to appear on an increasingly trafficked, even overcrowded North Branch Road (a very tricky, narrow road, compared with the Plains roads).

Others spoke in favor of diversions. One noted that the extra time required by the detours would probably not be that great, except for heavy traffic, and that Ripton was already used to the hardships of mountain life. VTrans argued that the extra time, expense, and effort involved in building a second bridge would be unduly burdensome.

At this point your humble notetaker had to leave the meeting, in order to put children to bed. He drove over the Sand Hill Bridge along the way.

Previous post about the meeting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Important meeting Thursday night

There's a meeting in East Middlebury Thursday night, concerning a matter of great importance to the Ripton community: closing the Sand Hill bridge.

A VTrans project engineer is apparently going to present on plans to close down that vital bridge for a long period of time. Repairs are needed, and must be done without traffic, it seems.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. - Thursday, September 23rd - at the East Middlebury United Methodist Church.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn in Ripton, and a bit of reaping

It's late September in Ripton, and harvesting is happening. From corn (hiya, Cornfest!) to spuds:

What are you bringing in?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Days of Caring Volunteers at Ripton Elementary 9/16/10

Once again this year we will have Days of Caring volunteers coming to help us clean up our gardens. Hannaford Career Center students and Ripton Elementary students will be working together on this task. The community is warmly invited to join us for gardening fun starting at 9:00 this Thursday September 16 here at Ripton Elementary. Many thanks to the United Way for organizing wonderful community events like these all over Addison County.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Talk tonight at the town church

Neighbor Bill McKibben will give a talk tonight in the town church.
“The Taunting Whirlwind” is the Annual Rabbi Victor E. Reichert Bible Talk .
From the flyer:

Sunday, September 12th
5 P.M.
@ The Ripton Community Church
All are invited

Ripton’s own Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College scholar in residence, will give a talk entitled “The Taunting Whirlwind”. Per tradition, this title and the content of the lecture will serve as clues pointing to the text from the Hebrew Bible/Tanakh that McKibben will engage.

McKibben’s reputation precedes him. He is an author, educator, and environmentalist of international renown. He is also a United Methodist.

Rabbi Victor Reichert began the tradition of gathering his friends and the public and giving a “little talk” on one of the books of the Bible at the end of each summer. Rabbi Reichert was affectionately known as “the Methodist rabbi” and “the rabbi in residence”. Since his death in 1990, Havurah, the Jewish congregation in Addison County, and the United Methodist Church in Ripton have honored his memory by continuing the talks in his name.

Sponsored by Friends of The Ripton Community Church

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Riptonite to the White House

Ripton local Bill McKibben made his way to the White House this week.

He and a group brought solar panels from the Carter administration, which had once adorned that presidency's White House. Bill's idea was for the Obama team to accept them back.

Unfortunately, "mid-level officials" decided not to embrace the idea.
After the meeting, Mr. McKibben, speaking by cellphone from the
sidewalk outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White
House, said: “They refused to take the Carter-era panel that we brought with us
and said they would continue their deliberative process to figure out what is
appropriate for the White House someday. I told them it would be nice to
deliberate as fast as possible, since that is the rate at which the planet’s
climate is deteriorating.”

Friday, September 10, 2010