Okay, I confess. I like Middlebury's sleek new downtown Cross Street Bridge with its quaint, faux Euro traffic rotary. The multi-million dollar bridge may not be the Ponte Vecchio or the Golden Gate, but it's Middlebury's little span-of-attention-getting.
But with my true bridge confessions comes a nagging reservation about ultimate solutions to big problems facing Vermont communities along U.S. Route 7.
It is unlikely Route 7 will be upgraded to multiple lanes in our lifetime-possibly never. What does that mean for the future of life and travel along the congested, stressed Route 7 corridor north of Rutland?
Well, in the case of Middlebury, I believe that the community would have been better served with a modern bridge constructed at the site of the old Three-Mile Covered Bridge. That wooden span was destroyed by an arson fire back in 1958 and never rebuilt.
But so far, Middlebury's new bridge appears to be the latest fix to the shire town's traffic woes. But you must surely realize that these woes are not going away? Barring a national calamity, there will still be automobiles and trucks bearing commuters and products of commerce.
Just last year Montpelier officials reported that town bypasses are no longer on the table for discussion. Oh, really? How about in another 20-25 years?What will the Montpelier mahdis of the misty future have to say about bypasses then?
Neither automobiles-whether powered by gasoline, diesel, photovoltaics, CVPS cowgas or yet-to-be-invented Mr. Fusion home appliances-nor us Vermonters are going away soon or are we about to change our driving habits.
So, at some moment of future time, Middlebury's downtown traffic congestion will become unsustainable, at least to most residents and merchants. What then? I give it 10-20 years.
Of course, it's easy to see why downtown Middlebury merchants have adopted the new bridge as their own. There were some grumbles early on, but those voices have quieted down since last October's ribboncutting. Now it appears the downtown traffic problem has been solved. But then there's that uncertain word appears.