SYLVA – The underground issues at a slide location in the Nantahala Gorge are evolving.
Over the past week, tension cracks and a new escarpment have developed above the slide location along U.S. 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge.
A contractor for the N.C. Department of Transportation will hire a sub-contractor to loosen and remove additional rock near Ferebee Memorial Picnic Area in order to prevent dangerous boulders, rocks and trees from reaching the road.
Additional drilling and blasting is required to remove debris. This work will require the highway to remain closed for about three weeks. Drivers will continue to be routed through Robbinsville, which adds about 20 minutes to a one-way commute. Drivers heading longer distances through the gorge — between Sylva and Murphy — may choose to use U.S. 441 and U.S. 64.
“The highway is not safe for the traveling public during the upcoming operations due to the unstable nature of the area and dangers associated with the work,” Division 14 Engineer Brian Burch said. “We realize the disruption to traditional travel will continue, and we want to open the highway as soon as possible. But we have to do so when conditions are safe.”
The highway will reopen in the one-lane pattern with a traffic signal at the site following this operation. Crews will then spend the following two to three weeks installing rock bolts and steel netting to stabilize the slide area and prevent additional dirt and debris from entering the highway .
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.