Rte. 132 Work Forces New Detour in Sharon

Sharon — Motorists traveling on Route 132 from Strafford to access Interstate 89 in Sharon face an eight-mile detour while part of the road is closed for construction, according to Sharon Selectboard members.

Meanwhile, another closed portion of the route nearer to the interstate had one lane reopened with a traffic light earlier this month.

Both projects are to repair damage wreaked by Tropical Storm Irene more than two years ago, but were made possible only recently as the Federal Emergency Management Agency released the necessary funds.

The latest road closing, which cuts off traffic between Cross and High Lake roads in Sharon, took effect at the beginning of the week, said Sharon Selectboard Chairman Paul Haskell.

It could take two to three weeks for workers to replace “two terribly undersized culverts” that flooded during the tropical storm, he said.

Due to that closing, drivers traveling from Strafford to Sharon on Route 132 must take a detour down Cross Road to Fay Brook Road, which lets motorists out onto Route 14.

The earlier closing — about a mile north on Route 132 from Interstae 89 — was closed unexpectedly in September after workers undertaking repair work found that the ledge was deeper under the roadbed than engineers expected.

The good news, Haskell said, is that because that location has been reopened to one lane of traffic, drivers from the Norwich area on Beaver Meadow Road can now get to the interstate easily on Route 132, “with an exception of a little pinch where the stoplight is.”

However, some are still frustrated. Alex Roupinian, who co-owns Idlewood The Restaurant on Route 132 in Sharon, said “things have gotten a little bit better” since the original road closing was reopened to one lane of traffic. But he noted business continues to be off by roughly half because motorists see the detour signs and decide not to travel up to the restaurant.

“People are still reluctant to use (Route) 132 because they’re not sure where High Lakes Road and Cross Road are, so rather than get caught in not knowing where they are, they’d (rather not) take the detour,” Roupinian said.

He felt the signs could have been clearer by referencing the distance of the closing instead of just including the road names, which many people aren’t familiar with.

The restaurant is tapping into reserve cash funds to stay afloat during what is usually one of the busiest times of the year because of foliage season, he said.

“Personally I think this is a major leaf peeping road, and to have it closed … I kind of scratch my head at,” he said. “(B)ut then again you look at it pragmatically and say, ‘When was there a good time to do it?’ ”

At Coburns’ General Store in South Strafford, business hasn’t exactly been affected — except for an uptick in drivers coming in to ask for directions after getting lost while trying to navigate the detour, said owner Chrissy Jamieson.

She’s also seen a rise in complaints about the inconvenience, noting that out-of-towners have a particularly hard time with the detour on a narrow dirt road with no cell phone service. But regulars are annoyed, too.

“They hate it, they’re annoyed with it, they want to know when it’s going to be gone,” she said.

“We hear about it every day, and we’re like, ‘We can’t do anything about it,’ ” she added, laughing.

Jamiesen nontheless credits the Selectbaord with doing “a fairly good job of trying to get information as things happen.”

Haskell said he understands the points of view of motorists and and business operators such as Roupinian — “This is a rotten time of the year if you’re in the business he’s in to have the traffic flow in front of your establishment slow down,” he said — but “at some point, safety trumps everything.”

The entire Route 132 reconstruction is costing about $929,000, with the town’s share being about 10 percent. The timing was pushed back into the fall as town officials awaited federal funding and the availability of workers and materials.

There’s an “incredible amount of lead time ... before you ever stick your damn shovel in the ground,” he said, “and then this one we had to wait for all the federal funding to align … and it just is what it is.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.