The section of Newfound Gap Road that was washed away due to heavy rainfall last week is still influx as park officials attempt to figure out how to repair that portion of U.S. Highway 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s primarily recognized as the main connector road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, N.C.
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.
It’s still considered an active landslide because of the continuously flowing springs underneath the road’s surface.
When it ill be fixed is still anyone’s guess. The National Park Service is working with the Department of Federal Highways to come up with a plan, as well as the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (EFLH) to assist in the initial evaluation of the slide and develop repair solutions. Engineers have been on site since last week. The hope is that by the end of next week officials will know when construction can commence and how much it will cost.
During its busiest days, the 31-mile stretch of Newfound Gap Road can have up to 7,000 cars travel along it.
Newfound Gap Road will be open to visitors from the Gatlinburg entrance in Tennessee to the Newfound Gap parking lot as soon as it is possible. The road is open to Smokemont on the North Carolina side.