Asheville - Starting Tuesday, July 14, blasting operations will cause temporary morning closures on a rural stretch of Interstate 40 in Haywood County near the Tennessee border. The North Carolina Department of Transportation continues a project to make the rockslide-prone area safer, blasting unstable boulders from the mountainside near mile marker 7.
"The contractor can block the road for up to one 30-minute period between sunrise and 10 a.m.," says Aaron Powell, NCDOT resident engineer. "We initially plan on blasting six days a week to minimize the length of the total project."
When the contractor is ready for the daily detonation, westbound travelers will encounter a "rolling roadblock" at exit 20 near Maggie Valley. Eastbound travelers will encounter one at Tennessee exit 447, Hartford Road.
"Law enforcement cruisers and contractor vehicles will lead drivers at 10 miles per hour," Powell explains. "Once crews determine the blasting area is safe, traffic can continue through and resume regular travel."
During the rolling roadblocks, the on ramps at exit 15 and the I-40 westbound rest area will be closed, to make sure no vehicles end up approaching the blast area before crews give the "all clear". Travelers should stay alert for stopped or slowed traffic from westbound exit 20 to exit 7, and from Tennessee exit 447 to North Carolina mile marker 5 on I-40 East.
"We appreciate drivers' patience as we work to make the highway safer. It's obviously dangerous to be near the area during the blast, so the delays are necessary. While there will be congestion and backups likely at blast time, we are working to get drivers through the rolling roadblocks safely and back up to speed as quickly as possible," says Powell.
The project is scheduled to be finished in October.
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