A completion date for roadwork on Newfound Gap Road looks to be within sight. Round the clock roadwork has been ongoing according to the contractor repairing US 441 (Newfound Gap Road) – the site of a January landslide took out a large, football field-sized section in North Carolina.
Accordingly, the main road between Gatlinburg, TN, and Cherokee, N.C., is scheduled to reopen by May 15. Incentives have been put into place if the work is done earlier and there are penalties if the project falls behind schedule.
Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park tell the Knoxville News Sentinel that Phillips & Jordan Inc. of Robbinsville, N.C., started working through the night this past week to speed up the completion date so that it would be finished by the summer tourism season.
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 during the mid point of the month.
A football field-sized gap now makes up the roadway. Officials say 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.