At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

I-40 slide cleanup causes closure

Cleaning a rockslide on Interstate 40 near the Tennessee State lane will require the N.C. Department of Transportation to keep the interstate closed about one week for the safety of contract workers and those who would be driving in the area.

A slide at mile marker 7.5 closed I-40 at the state line for westbound traffic and exit 20 for eastbound traffic on Friday night Feb. 22. Debris was still falling Saturday morning as Geotechnical experts surveyed the mountainside. Engineers determined that work is required to stabilize the 500-foot wide area, which is near Hurricane Creek.

NCDOT has awarded an emergency contract to Harrison Construction as part of another contract to improve I-40 later this spring. Crews will be on location Saturday afternoon. In order to safely execute that contract, traffic will be limited to one lane in each direction — on the eastbound side of a concrete median — for an additional six to eight weeks.

“For everybody’s safety — drivers, workers, contractors — we need to keep the road closed for about a week,” Division 14 Engineer Brian Burch said. “At that point, we anticipate having enough material down the mountain that we can restore one lane of traffic in each direction.”

Preliminary plans include removing approximately 27,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock and other debris, followed by the installation of preventative measures such as a netting or catchment fence. GeoTechnical experts will help develop the detailed plans.

Drivers need to allow extra travel time. The detour route 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.

Go to top