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Sylva faces $2 million road repair

A trouble spot that appeared last spring is more severe than the area near Bobwhite Lane, requiring closure of a portion of the road since April 2020. Holly Kays photo A trouble spot that appeared last spring is more severe than the area near Bobwhite Lane, requiring closure of a portion of the road since April 2020. Holly Kays photo

Fixing ongoing landslide issues on Allen Street could cost up to $2 million — an amount equivalent to more than 40% of the town’s current budget — Sylva commissioners learned during a discussion at their Aug. 12 meeting  that lasted over an hour. 

The narrow, winding street has two areas of cracked pavement , including a 150-foot portion above Bryson Park that features such significant vertical displacement that both the road section and the park have been closed since spring 2020. The town has been working with Asheville-based Kessel Engineering Group to complete engineering and geotechnical analyses of the situation, but more recently it selected Greenville, South Carolina-based Wurster Engineering and Construction Inc., to do the work and Asheville-based Civil Design Concepts for pre-construction consulting and contracting. Though the board knew the fix would be expensive — upward of $1 million, at least — Aug. 12 marked the first time they received a specific estimate. 

“It is not our intention to show you at this juncture the absolute least possible cost for delivery of said project,” said Patrick Bradshaw of Civil Design Concepts. “Really, our impetus is to try to describe without simply overinflating it the magnitude of the project. I think it would be very fair to say at this point that based on market conditions and reflections of the market we’re probably between $1.7 and a $2 million project here.”

Bradshaw presented the board with a formal estimate totaling $1.95 million. Of the 18 line items in the estimate, three are responsible for more than half the total cost.  Grading of the areas below both slides, including offsite soil disposal, will cost $300,00, and repair of the north side above Bryson Park will cost $370,000, while repair of the south side at Bobwhite Lane will cost $349,000. 

Proposed repairs will include soil removal to reduce the slope’s steepness and construction of two 15-to-20-foot soil nail walls below the road, one at each slope failure. Steel reinforcements — the “nails” — would be go into the slope at a horizontal angle, each one about 45 feet long. 


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A sketch made during the Aug. 12 meeting shows approximately where the proposed soil nail walls, shown in red and blue, would go. Donated photo


“That reinforces the slope and makes it almost like a fishbowl and really captures Allen Street,” said Rich Adams of Wurster Engineering. 

If nothing is done, Bradshaw said, the slope will likely continue to move. Allen Street is a perfect example of the “slope stability triangle” of steep grades, poor-quality soil and high moisture content, Adams said. 

“These slopes really are kind of a perfect storm of issues that have come up to create the failures that we’ve got,” he said. “They’re a little bit steeper than what we’d like to see for the type of soil we’ve got, the way that soil is piled up there on top. And the quality of the soils really being fill, there’s 5 to 15 feet of fill over some softer residual soil before you get into good, competent soils. Then when you add the rainfall we’ve had in Western North Carolina over the last eight to 10 years, that kind of sets off just a perfect storm of the three legs of the triangle that sets off these slope failures.”

The work will likely take six to seven months to complete, said Bradshaw, and though the contractor would coordinate with homeowners to ensure they’re able to get out while traveling to and from work, Allen Street will be blocked for periods of time during the day when construction is happening. 

The Aug. 12 discussion included only the proposed solutions and the estimated costs, and while the board reached a consensus to continue moving ahead with plans to repair the street, it has not yet discussed a concrete plan for funding. That conversation is scheduled to occur at the Aug. 26 meeting. 

On June 10, town commissioners unanimously approved a resolution requesting $750,000 in state contingency funds , with $250,000 apiece requested from the N.C. House, N.C. Senate and N.C. Secretary of Transportation. That request was based on the assumption that the road repair would cost about $1.5 million, so the state and the town would each shoulder half the cost. Most if not all of the town’s share of the repair was to come from fund balance. 

As of press time, the town had not yet received a response to its request. 

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