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Ledge, bad weather delay River Road opening in Lyme

  • Sean Walker, of New England Mobile Crushing Services, takes a break in his car as workers crush ledge removed from the River Road bypass project in Lyme, N.H., Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. After using the resulting fill to grade the remaining portion of the bypass, paving is expected to be complete by mid-November. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Workers crush stone removed from the site of the River Road bypass in Lyme, N.H., Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. After weeks of hammering the ledge and not making the desired progress, dynamite was used to blast through the rock. The resulting fill will be used to finish grading the road. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2019 10:01:51 PM
Modified: 10/21/2019 10:01:47 PM

LYME — A combination of inclement weather and excavation problems has bogged down work to reroute River Road, delaying its long-awaited reopening to November.

Crews this week are crushing ledge to use as a base material on the new road, and paving is scheduled to start next week, according to Dennis Thompson, of Northern New England Field Services, the project’s contractor.

However, rain in the forecast for Wednesday could further delay progress, said Thompson, who estimated it will be a few weeks before the road is ready for drivers.

“We’ve been hoping to get done long before this,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. “We’re just as anxious as anyone to have that job done.”

Thompson said delays on the project, which seeks to reroute River Road over a 3.7-acre piece of land owned by Lyme attorney and farmer Arend Tensen, began with the permitting process last fall.

Environmental permitting took eight weeks instead of the two that state officials had initially suggested, he said.

“So, we did what work we could outside of the permit and waited,” Thompson said.

Then early-season snow then made it impossible to make headway until this spring.

“You just can’t work in that weather,” Thompson said

Crews got back to work in May only to encounter another issue — ledge.

Thompson had planned to spend six weeks using a pneumatic hammer to break up ledge at the site but progress was so slow going and the rock was so dense that the crew had to resort to blasting.

“The ledge was considerably more than anticipated,” he said.

It’s unclear how much the additional work will cost taxpayers. At this point, the town’s contract with Northern New England Field Services hasn’t changed  from the $511,000 allocated last year, according to Dina Cutting, the Selectboard’s administrative assistant.

Cutting said Monday she does not know how much paving is expected to cost.

Selectboard Chairman Kevin Sahr declined to answer questions on the project Monday.

Meanwhile, neighbors have complained about a lack of communication from the town.

An April post on its website said work would be wrapped up by August. The prediction later changed to an Oct. 1 opening date before being updated to “mid-November” in a September post.

None of the posts offered an explanation for why the road work was taking longer than expected.

“We kind of kept quiet, but I did keep saying to my husband ‘I don’t see why the Selectboard or somebody doesn’t inform us,’ ” River Road resident Sally Barnum said on Monday. “Basically, we’re in the dark.”

In the meantime, she said, residents south of the road closure remain cut off from the rest of Lyme and have to drive roughly 5 miles south to Hanover before turning north on Route 10.

Town officials closed a roughly 600-foot section of the road in 2015 because of structural problems caused by erosion from the nearby Connecticut River.

“We’re kind of isolated,” Barnum said. “It’s rather a life change.”

Sue Mackenzie, a former Selectboard member who lives on River Road, said she’s gotten used to the commute.

“It doesn’t do any good to get upset about it. It is what it is and eventually it will end,” she said. “I think the end is in sight, and it will get opened and we all will be very grateful.”

Still, Thompson says he understands peoples’ frustration.

“We are working every day to make sure that we get it done as quickly as we can,” he said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Valley News

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