Following a landslide which closed the road for almost three months, Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which runs from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, NC reopened Monday, April 15 at 10 a.m.
The landslide that occurred during January storms took out a 200-foot section of pavement six miles south of Newfound Gap. The North Carolina section of the road had been closed since January 16.
As a reward for finishing the job a month ahead of a May 15 deadline, Phillips and Jordan Inc. contractors received a $500,000 bonus, funded by the National Park Service and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
“We recognize the economic importance of the road to our neighboring communities and are grateful that our partners at Federal Highways Administration and were able to respond efficiently to our need and work with the contractors to make the necessary repairs in less than 90 days,” said Smokies Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.
The contract awarded to Phillips & Jordan, Inc., totaled nearly $4 million. Included in the contract were incentives of $8,000 per day for early completion.
The final design includes pipes to allow for the drainage of subsurface water flow along with side drainage leading to a culvert at the end of the slope.
In January, heavy rainfall and an underground stream combined to loosen thousands of tons of rock, soil and trees, which slid the length a football field down a slope. Officials said an estimated 9,000 dump truck-loads of dirt, rock and roadway crashed 45-50 feet down the side of the mountain.
Engineers believe a subsurface spring underneath the area was a large factor in causing the landslide. It’s unknown how long the spring had been there. That, combined with the heavy rain that week, caused the collapse. In all, 8 inches of rain fell in the area between Monday and Wednesday the week of January 14.
At the time, it was considered an active landslide because of the continuously flowing springs underneath the road’s surface.