CLYDE — N.C. Department of Transportation officials reopened Interstate 40 to one lane of traffic heading in each direction around a rockslide at mile marker 7.5 on Thursday afternoon.
“A team of NCDOT crews and contract crews worked extremely hard and very long hours since Friday night to get the interstate open,” said Nathan Tanner, Division 14, District 2 Engineer. “I’m very impressed with the work completed. But, there’s still more to be done in order to open all lanes.”
Eastbound traffic from Tennessee is being funneled into one lane before the Harmon Den exit. Westbound traffic begins merging lanes shortly after the rest area.
Traffic will remain in this pattern through the Pigeon River Gorge for about five weeks. Harrison Construction earned an emergency contract to repair the slide area at a cost of $2.1 million.
Crews have removed unstable material — rocks, mud, trees — from atop the slide area and pushed it to the road. Other crews have hauled that material to a debris site. Work already completed since sunrise on Saturday includes removing the concrete median, paving the depression and rumble strips on the eastbound side, painting lines and installing reflectors.
The next phase of repairs has already started. Crews from Harrison and a sub-contractor will continue removing material and installing rock anchors and wire mesh at the top of the slope to slow the momentum of any small debris that should break loose in the future. In addition, new horizontal drains will direct water inside the slope.
Motorist driving through the area should expect delays, especially during peak hours. Attentive driving will play a critical role in reducing the possibility of crashes. The speed limit has been lowered to 45 MPH until the repairs are complete.
“We know this is an important route for more than Haywood County, western North Carolina and east Tennessee residents,” Tanner said. “It’s important to everybody crossing through the Smoky Mountains.”