SYLVA – N.C. Department of Transportation officials recently awarded a $450,000 contract to increase the stability of a hill beside U.S. 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge that has suffered from recent slides.
The preliminary work to be completed by GeoStabilization International requires a closure of U.S. 19/74 in the gorge starting Monday, March 9, and lasting through the week.
Drivers will be routed through Robbinsville — as they have been during recent closures due to slides — which adds about 20 minutes to commute times.
Crews from GSI will spend the week scaling a slide area near Ferebee Memorial Picnic Area with hand tools including axes, shovels, and pry-bars to remove loose material and prepare the area for the next phase of repairs.
Once the scaling is complete, likely on Sunday, March 15, traffic will return to the current one-lane pattern with a traffic signal at the slide area.
Then crews will spend the next two to three weeks installing rock bolts and 9,000 square feet of steel netting to stabilize the slide area and prevent additional dirt and debris from entering the highway at this location. The roadway should open to two-way traffic by the first weekend in April.
“During this very technical work, it is safest for drivers and the crews to have the road closed,” said NCDOT Assistant District Engineer Zach Shuler. “Once it opens back to one lane, drivers will need to be cautious in the area and expect the unexpected, like seeing workers dangling by ropes from the hillside like mountain climbers.”
This hillside in the Nantahala Gorge suffered a slide on Jan. 4 that closed the highway and forced NCDOT officials to set up a small catchment area and install the traffic signal for the safety of passing drivers.
During the closure, the detour will direct westbound traffic from U.S. 19/74 to N.C. 28 to Stecoah, N.C. 143 to Robbinsville and U.S. 129 to Topton and U.S. 74. Eastbound traffic will go to Robbinsville and then Stecoah en route back to U.S. 19/74. Visitors may still access the Nantahala Outdoor Center from the east.