U.S. 441 work nears completion

Repairs to U.S. 441 are nearing completion.

A football-field-sized portion of U.S. 441, which runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was completely washed away in January after days of heavy rain resulted in a landslide.

The missing chunk of roadway forced the National Park Service to close the road that serves as a main tourism artery to the Cherokee reservation and its many businesses.

Federal Highways Administration hired Phillip and Jordan, a construction company from Robbinsville, in early March to rebuild the road and shore up the area in an effort to prevent future slides. The contract is valued at nearly $4 million and the deadline for completion was May 15.

Now just about a month and a half later, there are only a few jobs left to complete on the checklist before the road can reopen. Although a Phillips and Jordan representative said they hope to complete the work soon, neither he nor the National Park Service spokeswoman were willing to name a definitive date.

“It’s progressing very nicely, and we do feel we will finish ahead of schedule,” said Dudley Orr, vice president of operations at Phillip and Jordan. “We are paving as we speak.”

Besides paving, Orr said the company needed to build a shoulder for cars, paint lines on the road and place a finish down.

Orr added that the company has had people working around the clock, through all types of weather.

“We have encountered rain, sleet, snow,” Orr said. “We have not really missed a single day.”

When weather prevented them from performing one task, they moved onto another. About 50 employees have worked the project altogether, he said.

Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said he was pleased with the work Phillip and Jordan has been doing and how quickly they were able to get going.

“I appreciate the contractor coming in as timely as they did,” Hicks said. “It ran smooth, and it was organized.”

Phillip and Jordan motivated by an extra incentive to work as hard as they can. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the National Park Service has offered the company $18,000 for every day repairs are completed before the deadline, up to $500,000. That means as long as workers are done by the end of next week, Phillip and Jordan will receive the full half-million.

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