The governor turned the spigot and work is starting up again on Stowe’s Main Street.
Road and utility work started last week after Gov. Phil Scott lifted restrictions on some nonessential work. Orange signs announcing work zones and detours popped up and, soon, dust will fill the air, as the last bit of downtown Stowe’s ancient water main is replaced and utility companies start the last steps toward getting rid of all those downtown utility poles.
“Our goal, before the curveballs, was to remove the poles by the end of this construction season. I don’t know anymore,” said Harry Shepard, Stowe’s public works director. He said this project — all the downtown reconstruction — is the most challenging he’s seen in his 40 years of work.
The majority of the sidewalk and utility project was finished last year, when Stowe’s downtown sidewalks were torn up, conduit to hold all the utility lines was buried and new sidewalks were built. Now, all that’s left of the $6.6 million project is to pull the wires through the conduit, hook them all up and remove the poles.
Sounds simple, but it’s not. Six companies own lines on those poles, and they’re responsible for doing the work.
“Yeah, it’s a challenge. They all have to pull independently and sequentially,” said Shepard, who is coordinating the effort.
The work shouldn’t affect traffic. Because all the major construction is done, crews can go to various exposed points and pull their wires from there.
“We started last week, actually,” said Dave Kresock, operations director for the Stowe Electric Department. The School Street portion was completed, but there’s a lot more to go. “We’ll be working on that most of this spring and probably into the summer.”
Once all the new lines are underground and hooked up, the existing wires and poles can come down.
Kresock doesn’t expect any serious problems.
“We might have the occasional outage, but it’s not going to be one big, long outage or anything like that,” he said.
The water main
A temporary water main will be installed by the end of this week and starting Monday, May 11, South Main Street will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from the Public Safety Building to Stowe Dance Academy. Passenger vehicles will use a detour from Thomas Lane to School Street and large vehicles will take Moscow Road to Mountain Road.
The work should take about six weeks, replacing the sidewalks and the concrete slabs supporting the road, while swapping the last bit left of Stowe’s original water system with larger 12-inch-diameter pipe.
The workers are still getting used to new coronavirus working conditions — only one person per vehicle, keeping their distance from one another and wearing masks when they have to get close. They took a course last week to ensure they’re working together safely amid the pandemic.
Shepard would love to catch up to the original schedule for completing the project, but isn’t betting on it.
“We had hoped to get going earlier in the season. New compliance will likely slow things down,” he said. “I’m glad that we’re able to start getting back to normal, and I’m hopeful we can keep going on that positive route.”