Safety improvements are coming to a stretch of Interstate 40 in Haywood County prone to rockslides.
Beginning Monday, March 16, traffic along mile marker 7 on Interstate 40 in the Pigeon River Gorge will be stopped for up to 30 minutes at a time between 30 minutes after sunrise and 10 a.m. The closure will help crews safely remove timber from the rock slope. The work is part of a $6.4 million project that will remove potential rockfall hazards and help prevent future slides from happening.
During the road closure, the contractor will be performing rolling road blocks in both directions with assistance from law enforcement between the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and Exit 15. Due to the limited time frame in which the contractor has to work, the removal of the timber will take several days to complete.
Motorists are encouraged to adjust their travel plans to avoid this area during the time frames mentioned above if possible. An alternative route would be to take I-240 in Asheville to I-26 West toward Johnson City and then I-81 South back to I-40. However, this route adds a considerable amount of travel time for anyone traveling from the Asheville area to Knoxville, Tenn.
Mile marker 7 has seen several rockfall events in recent years. The area was closed briefly in early June 2014 while crews scaled the rock wall and removed potential rockfall hazards. In 2009, a major rockslide closed I-40 westbound at mile marker 3. During cleanup and repair from that rockslide, another rockfall event occuured at mile marker 7 that would have closed I-40 westbound had it not already been closed.
Due to its location in a sharp downhill turn, mile marker 7 on I-40 is seen as the most beneficial location for a slope stabilization project. The new engineered slope will have state-of-the-art design and construction and bring it up to the safety standards of new interstate slopes, similar to those on I-26 in northern Madison County.
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