Unsafe to cross? Some people in Middlebury say the town has failed to repair some bridges it’s legally obligated to maintain.
“There is cement falling down on the tracks, there are holes in the sidewalk and they’re really quite dangerous,” says Middlebury Attorney Peter Langrock.
He says while you may need a detour to get there you don’t have to look hard to see the Main St. and Merchants Row bridges crossing the railroad pose a major safety hazard.
“We’re in a situation where concrete could fall from that bridge, and it could derail a train,” says Langrock. “We’ve already had one derailment in Middlebury where we escaped a catastrophic situation.”
Langrock represents several concerned residents who say the town is guilty of neglecting repairs, leaving the bridges unsafe for travel.
The notice to the town requests Middlebury work to repair the bridges within 72 hours.
“It cost too much to put a Band-Aid on it,” says Langrock. “Let’s replace them so we can put good bridges in which will hold indefinitely in the future.”
Concrete company J.P. Carrara and Sons estimates the town is looking at $5.2M to replace both bridges.
“Is the bridge more important than the schools?” says Bob Buckeye of Middlebury.
He says the town has to prioritize how it spends money.
“Unless there is some knowledgeable understanding of what’s happening to it nothing should be done.”
Reports from the Vermont Agency of Transportation show the bridges are in “poor condition.”
“What we’re doing right now is saying fix the bridges, worry about the railroad later, you can fix the bridges at a reasonable cost and return safety to community,” says Langrock.
In a written statement the town says it’s the railroad not the town’s responsibility to maintain the rail bridges. Middlebury’s town manager declined to speak on camera but says it’s working with the Agency of Transportation to improve the safety of the crossings.