Press release from N.C. Department of Transportation:
Teams of N.C. Department of Transportation employees are swarming Interstate 40 near the Tennessee state line.
But none of them are involved with the rockslide near mile marker 7.5.
Teams from bridge maintenance, roadside environmental, Haywood County maintenance and others are working on unscheduled improvement projects with the additional safety benefit of no oncoming traffic.
“This is the safest situation possible for our crews and the travelling public,” Division 14 Bridge Maintenance Engineer Tyler Rogers said. “We’re able to do work that we wouldn’t be able to do even if one lane were closed.”
Crews are taking advantage of I-40 being closed between the state line and the U.S. 276 exit at mile marker 20. They’re getting as much work done as possible in this short timeframe. Some crews will work around the clock.
Bridge teams are repairing joints, maintenance crews are patching potholes, roadside environmental squads are sweeping, and other crews are clearing ditches and cleaning drainage boxes.
The bridge team is working on three bridges between mile marker 15 and U.S. 276. Improvements include joint repairs and a new surface treatment to provide a smoother ride for all motorists.
“None of this work was scheduled,” Rogers said. “But we see the opportunity to do a lot of improvements for drivers and our guys jumped at the opportunity to help.”
At the slide location, a contractor continues removing loose material and hauling it away. Another crew is paving areas where traffic will cross from one side of the interstate to the other once longer-term work to secure the mountainside is under way. There are also earth berms being built as protection for drivers.
NCDOT engineers estimate that I-40 will be closed through Thursday. Then traffic will be shifted to move through the Pigeon River Gorge with one lane heading in each direction.
The detour route still in place during the complete closure utilizes a combination of I-40, I-240, I-26, and I-81 through Asheville and Johnson City. The distance from Asheville to the I-40/I-81 junction in Tennessee is about 50 miles longer than driving through the Pigeon River Gorge on I-40.