Striking while the iron’s hot

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has found a silver lining in the Interstate 40 closure following a massive rockslide in late October near the Tennessee line.

It is taking advantage of the months-long shut down by fast-tracking maintenance work already in the pipeline.

The N.C. DOT expects to spend a total of $4.5 million on routine maintenance along the corridor while contractors continue hauling away debris from the massive rockslide.

Transportation Secretary Gene Conti recently awarded a $2 million contract for a new concrete surface on the I-40 bridge over White Oak Road in Jonathan Creek.

The work is less costly now that contractors don’t have to work around a constant flow of traffic, according to Joel Setzer, DOT division engineer for 10 western counties.

“When the rockslide occurred, we immediately saw an opportunity,” said Setzer.

In all, DOT workers are tackling four bridge deck repairs, repaving three tunnels, and replacing all arrows and reflectors on the median walls.

They’re trimming trees, removing brush, mowing slopes and performing drainage maintenance.

N.C. DOT’s Geotech Unit is also inspecting other areas along the corridor that previously have had rockslides to check for potential problems. Setzer said the Geotech Unit has so far done only visual inspections, but it plans to further explore riskier areas by foot.

While the DOT had already commissioned workers to trim trees on all roads in Haywood County, they were all redirected to the I-40 corridor immediately after the rockslide.

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