MIDDLEBURY - Middlebury's crumbling downtown railroad bridges, located across both Main Street and Merchants Row, may not get the immediate attention they need, according to town officials.
The bridges, built shortly after the end of World War I, are on the Vermont Agency of Transportation's bridge replacement list; however, tight federal and state funds will delay work on the spans until 2013-14 or later.
Both bridges exhibit crumbling decks; there's some anecdotal evidence of small cracks and holes already forming in sidewalk areas.
Several VTrans reports since 2007 have listed the bridges as needing major repair, if not total replacement.
Maintenance on the bridges was apparently ignored for years, by the parties in charge, for reasons unknown.
VTrans reports that a federal-state $15 million pre-cast concrete "tube" or tunnel could replace both bridges. But funds for this approach are not in the offing in either the current or next fiscal year budgets.
While Democrats in Congress would like to move ahead with bridge projects like Middlebury's nationwide, it requires money that isn't available currently without tax increases.
Republicans in Congress said they prefer to keep taxes down and continue to reduce or even eliminate various bridge projects, per the GOP Ryan Budget proposal.
Meanwhile, VTrans paper studies on the bridge-tunnel project will continue, but it's unlikely any field work will begin any time soon.