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Officials still don't know when Newfound Gap Rd. will reopen after landslide

5:57 PM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
Courtesy: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Work should begin this week to repair a huge landslide that has taken out a huge chunk of Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but officials still aren't sure when the road will reopen.

The slide happened January 16, when approximately 90,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock and roadway crashed 45-50 feet down the side of the mountain.   It took a chunk out of the roadway the size of a football field.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have been working with the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) to assess the damage to the road and determine how to repair it.  The field survey work is complete, and the FHWA is in the initial stage of preparation work to reconstruct the 200 linear feet of road. Work could begin next week.

According to a press release from the park, the first phase of work will include the stabilization of the slide, removal of landslide debris from the work area, and the completion of a path for construction vehicles to access the section of the slide below the roadway.

Officials are still trying to decide how to reconstruct the road to prevent this from happening again.  The road will be reconstructed as a reinforced full slope roadway that will allow for the drainage of water which will protect the road and park resources from future damage.

A timeline of completion cannot be determined until the final design has been developed and approved.

"We recognize the importance of Newfound Gap Road to our neighboring communities in our tourism based economy," said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "Therefore we are evaluating all reconstruction options to make sure the road work is completed in a timely but safe and efficient manner."

The road is the main direct route from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina.  Right now, drivers can get from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap, or from Cherokee to the Smokemont Campground.

The park is moving forward on re-vegetating the three acre debris field with native species to aid in sediment and erosion control. This will prevent run off from draining into the Beech Flats Prong stream located just below the slide area.

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