Residents, drivers and business owners had a largely positive view of Waterbury’s Main Street reconstruction project, based on survey results released by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

2019 marked the start of the long-delayed reconstruction of the town’s main thoroughfare, a $21 million project that is expected to be completed by July 2021. As contractors look forward to the upcoming construction season, the people most impacted by the project looked back on what worked well and what could be improved.

The survey was sent to 445 people who signed up for alerts through Waterbury Works or posted on several social media forums. All told, 192 people responded, and the majority of the responses expressed satisfaction with the process.

For example, 86 percent of respondents identified the performance of the traffic control work of the flaggers as “adequate” or “more than adequate,” with only 14.1 percent describing the flaggers as “inadequate.”

And by and large, respondents were pleased with the level of communication regarding construction activity and traffic delays, with 90 percent of people saying the communication efforts were “somewhat effective” or “very effective.”

The weekly email updates were the most effective form of communication, with 72 percent of respondents saying they received their construction information through Waterbury Works email, while others pointed to social media forums, the Waterbury Works website and the Waterbury Record as their source for construction updates.

For the most part, respondents lived outside the construction, with only 32 percent of respondents living within the construction zone. Of the 62 respondents who identified as living within the construction zone, 81 percent described communications efforts notifying them of utility cutoffs and blocked driveways as “very effective” or “somewhat effective.”

One respondent suggested that residents should receive text messages when the town issues a boil-water notice, while apartment dwellers said that notice given to landlords did not always make it to the tenants.

Business impact

The survey drew responses from 38 people who identified as the owner of a business on Main Street, with half of those respondents located between Stowe Street and Park Row. Again, reviews of communications efforts where positive, with 87 percent of respondents describing communication efforts as “somewhat effective” or “very effective.”

However, numerous business owners described the negative impact the project had on their operations. One respondent said she or she would no longer meet with clients due to “dust and loud noises coming from construction vehicles” on Main Street, while another respondent said fall and holiday business was down 30 percent.

Still another business owner reported sales being down by 20 percent. Of the respondents, 16 percent said construction had no impact on their business. When asked to rank the level of impact that construction had on a scale of one to 10, 53 percent of respondents answered six or higher.

Construction is expected to resume this spring, and there will be an information meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 at the Waterbury Municipal Building.

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