20190516_bta_Waterbury work

Workers from J.A. MacDonald construction, of Lyndon, work on a major downtown reconstruction project in Waterbury recently.

WATERBURY — It’s been a long time coming, but the $21 million Waterbury “full depth” infrastructure and road reconstruction project has begun. Thankfully, it’s still possible to navigate through town — even during afternoon rush hour.

This is because work has been planned to roll work out in sections to minimize traffic chaos, according to information from a recent public hearing. And so far, the plan appears to be working.

On a few afternoons recently, when driving from the new roundabout just off the Interstate 89 access ramps down through Main Street, it was evident construction was not yet affecting the downtown area, which was bustling with customers visiting restaurants, breweries, businesses and boutiques.

But below the main drag, from Park Row on, large backhoes, flaggers and other indications of heavy construction are obvious. Digging has begun only on the eastbound side of the street to allow drivers through on the other.

Municipal Manager William Shepeluk told those gathered at a public meeting March 21 the project has been in the planning stages since the 1970s, but had met various delays. Then, in recent years, renewed planning sessions with the local municipality, Vermont Agency of Transportation, and contractor J.A. MacDonald resulted in a blueprint for a three-year schedule in which the core downtown area would not even start to be affected until this August.

Overall, road and utility work “involves replacing all of Waterbury’s water and sewer lines that have been aging underground for about 100 years.

Shepeluk lauded J.A. MacDonald owner Eric Boyden for coming up with a plan that would minimize impact on merchants and residents.

Boyden, a native of Waterbury and Harwood alum, said he was very glad to be on the job in his hometown. J.A. MacDonald also built the roundabout, and was “able to manage the traffic flow and keep people happy most of the time,” Shepeluk said.

Ken Upmal, project manager from AOT, was also in charge of Barre’s “Big Dig” downtown road construction project.

“This project is an incredibly challenging, complicated project,” Upmal said. “This project was the single largest right of way acquisition in agency history.”

The group had to acquire rights of way for 122 separate parcels. Upmal said reconstruction will require digging down five feet, then replacing all water and sewer lines and underground utility vaulting. Then, the road surface and sidewalks will be replaced. However, the highway is not going to be expanded, and new lanes won’t be added.

This year, work starts at Park Row, where sewer, water and vaulting will be done followed by roadway pavement on one half of the street while the other remains open.

Final work for the year is planned for Elm Street, where crews will do “a portion of sewer before the end of the year,” according to Upmal. Construction will be done over the 2019-2020 seasons, followed by landscaping and cleanup in 2021.

As for who foots the bill? Shepeluk explained how, since it will be paid for with local, state and federal taxes, “we’re all paying for it because we all pay the local taxes.” The federal government is paying 95%, the state is paying 3% and 2% is covered by local allocation voted on at Town Meeting.

For more information on the project and regular updates, visit www.waterburyworks.com

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