NH forced to delay repair of Route 12 in Charlestown

  • Damage to Route 12 in Charlestown, N.H., from a late-July storm is shown on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 3/18/2022 12:00:22 PM
Modified: 3/18/2022 3:48:41 PM

CHARLESTOWN — Business owners who rely on a steady flow of traffic through town as well as commuters and others who regularly travel Route 12 got some bad news this week when the state Department of Transportation announced it has had to stop the reconstruction of a portion of the road.

In a news release, DOT officials said the soil nail work, which is designed to shore up the railroad embankment that runs parallel to Route 12, has not gone as planned.

“As work was advancing, the track monitoring system registered excessive movement,” the DOT said. “This movement caused the Railroad to reduce speeds to 10 mph and to rescind the Railroad’s approval of the work to construct the soil nail wall.”

Route 12, the main route from Claremont to Keene, has been closed to thru traffic since early last August when a heavy rainstorm the last week of July washed under the road, causing it to settle several inches for about 600 feet. Because of the road’s close proximity to the tracks in that section, it acts as a buttress to the embankment, engineers said, and therefore cannot be dug up and reconstructed until the embankment is stabilized. The railroad owners had to agree to the DOT’s engineering proposal before work could begin on the embankment.

Soil nail construction involves drilling holes into the embankment and inserting steel rods every five feet. Mesh wire on the face of the rods is shot with concrete to create a wall that would be 10 feet deep. The soil nail wall work began in mid-February. The DOT also said “high groundwater, fluctuating temperatures and fractured underlying ledge” were all factors in the decision to halt work.

The road was supposed to reopen April 29, but with the work stoppage it is not clear how much later the reopening will be.

With the announcement, the DOT said it is working with engineers to consider design options in an effort to reopen the road as soon as possible and will work with the railroad on a solution.

On Thursday, Eileen Meaney, chief of communications for the DOT, said work was halted March 4.

“We are working with the engineers with the railroad to develop a strategy going forward,” Meaney said. “I can’t say when the date of completion will be (or when work will resume) but we are still in that window for that anticipated date (April 29 to finish).”

Meaney said in another week or two they will know more about when work will resume and the road reopened.

The closure of Route 12 begins south of the business district in Charlestown. On the southern end the road is closed from the intersection of Routes 12 and 12A. Travelers have to use Route 5 or Interstate 91 in Vermont or back roads, some of them dirt, to Langdon, N.H.

The pace of work on the road continues to frustrate local business owners who have seen a steep drop in customer traffic.

“This is disappointing to hear,” said Jan Bailey, owner of the Depot Home Center. “It is not good for the town or businesses.”

Bailey and others continue to wonder if work would have proceeded faster if the road were in a more populated area of the state.

“It feels like this has been ignored,” she said.

Joseph Cobb, owner of Cobb and Co. on Main Street in Charlestown, said his online business has kept them going and he is even planning an expansion. But in-store traffic has dropped significantly.

“It is hard to drive in-store traffic in a dead-end town,” Cobb said by phone Wednesday, adding that it is easier to continue to Claremont or Keene for most. “So we are just riding it out. In-store business is definitely struggling.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com




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