Contractor picked for Charlestown road project that’s closed Route 12 for months

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/26/2021 6:25:28 AM
Modified: 11/27/2021 6:42:13 AM

CHARLESTOWN — The state of New Hampshire has awarded a Vermont firm a $2.64 million contract to reconstruct a short stretch of Route 12 in Charlestown that has been closed since midsummer, but work may not be completed until the spring.

The Executive Council this week approved the contract with Casella Construction of Mendon, Vt., to fix the state highway, which was closed south of downtown Charlestown after a heavy rainstorm in late July undermined the road, causing it to drop several inches.

It is unclear when the work will actually start but in an email Tuesday, Timothy Dunn, a project engineer with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said the estimated completion date is late April 2022. Dunn further said that because of the underlying soil issues with the road, a partial or limited opening before the completion date can’t happen.

The closure has cut off the most direct route between Charlestown and Keene, forcing commuters, commercial vehicles, school buses and others to use either Interstate 91 or back roads through neighboring Langdon. That includes Charlestown students and staff trying to get to Fall Mountain Regional High School, requiring some to detour on dirt roads.

It has also impacted businesses in downtown Charlestown, with several saying in September they have experienced a sharp drop in customer counts because traffic through town has decreased significantly.

Dunn said Casella was the lowest of four bids received for the work, which includes a complicated process called soil-nailing wall construction that will stabilize the embankment of the nearby train tracks. The railroad and the roadway in that section of Route 12 are only about 15 yards apart, with the tracks sitting slightly higher on an embankment. Daily usage of the tracks includes two to four freight trains and the twice-daily Amtrak Vermonter.

In September, Jason Ayotte, another DOT engineer, said the soil-nailing project is expected to take six to eight weeks. Steel rods will be inserted into the embankment to form the facing for a concrete wall that will be about 10 feet deep. Because the roadway helps buttress the embankment, reconstruction of the paved area cannot begin until the embankment is stable, Ayotte said.

About 600 feet of roadway needs to be repaired but the road closure is a lot longer.

From the north the closure begins at the intersection of Almar and Main streets just south of downtown Charlestown, but drivers are advised to take the Interstate 91 detour more than a mile north of the business district. At the southern end, the road is closed slightly north of the Route 12 and 12A intersection.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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