SYLVA – N.C. Department of Transportation engineers have expanded the size of a repair project beside Interstate 40 to increase safety for motorists traveling in the area near the Tennessee state line.
After expanding the project, engineers granted Harrison Construction an additional 30 days to complete all repairs.
Transportation officials hope the additional repairs will better help prevent future slides and closures near the Harmon Den exit.
“The benefits of performing these additional repairs should pay off in the long run,” NCDOT resident engineer Nathan Tanner said. “It’s wise to perform this additional work now while we have the opportunity. The extra repairs should help keep traffic moving through the Pigeon River Gorge for a long time instead of reducing lanes again at a later date.”
Engineers are targeting the weekend of May 3 as the new date to reopen all four lanes to through traffic near mile marker 7. Traffic has been reduced to one lane heading in each direction since Feb. 28.
A rockslide on the night of Feb. 22 closed all four lanes between the state line and exit 20 for five days, which allowed NCDOT and contract crews to clear debris. The closure also allowed crews to transform the two eastbound lanes into one lane each direction with a concrete median and new lines at the slide.
The cleanup and repairs have included removing more than 10,000 tons of debris, installing rock anchors, hanging wire mesh and building a retaining wall. Additional repairs include additional scraping of rock, more anchors, and expanding the area covered by wire mesh.
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 to protect transportation crews in the work zone.
“Everybody has been working long days and with the weather turning, long weeks,” Tanner said. “We’ll continue that effort until we’re able to safely open up the interstate.”