Backhoes tearing up Route 7 and drivers coming to a stop are sure signs that something is in the works in St. Albans.
"We need Wal-Mart desperately here in this town," one stopped driver said. "There is nothing here. Downtown doesn't offer anything for us. We have to travel."
The push to bring Wal-Mart to town has been in and out of court for nearly two decades. Preservationists and competing businesses challenged the big box retailer. But Tuesday crews started digging to lay the utilities that will be needed to support the project.
"We always kind of felt like nothing would ever happen, but now that it's here it's kind of exciting," said David Handy, who owns a neighboring business.
The big box store is slated to go in just across the street from the St. Albans Drive-In Theater. The marquee headlines Tuesday had less to do with movies and a whole lot more to do with the traffic now that work is under way.
"It's pretty busy and I think it might be a little bit busier when Wal-Mart comes in, but it will do better for St. Albans," said Tammy Baisley, a road crew worker.
"We tried to bore and it was just not possible to do so, they broke two machines doing it. This was the next thing to do, which was dig up and come across," said Jerry Myers, the town manager in St. Albans.
Myers admits there have been critics of the project but argues the new store and its location are the right fit for St. Albans.
"I think now that it's going up I think the people have spoken of the town of where they want it. From the town's perspective, this is exactly where we want growth. It is in accordance with the town plan," Myers said.
Myers says local businesses will adapt to meet the changing commercial landscape and new competition.
The company abutting the property argues the Wal-Mart will be good for their own bottom line.
"We think there's going to be a huge increase in traffic, no doubt about it. And it should be good for a business," Handy said.
For now, the majority of drivers we talked to say navigating through the construction will be well worth what lies ahead.
"The five minutes saves me a 45-minute trip to Burlington," one driver said.
Construction on the new Wal-Mart will take 12-18 months. Bids for the actual construction of the Wal-Mart were due Aug. 7 and a team could be selected in the next few weeks. Construction could begin within 30-45 days.
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