Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Field Survey on Newfound Gap Road Landslide Completed

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have been working with the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) to assess damage to Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) as a result of a January 16 landslide. The FHWA has completed their field survey work, and are now in the initial stage of preparation work to reconstruct the 200 linear feet of road.

This first phase of work will include the stabilization of the slide, removal of landslide debris from the work area, and the completion of a path for construction vehicles to access the section of the slide below the roadway. The work is being coordinated by the FHWA and is expected to begin as early as next week.

While the preparation work is taking place, the design of the road repair is in the development process. The road will be reconstructed as a reinforced full slope roadway. The design will allow for the drainage of water which will protect the road and park resources from future damage. This second phase will begin when the initial site preparation work has been completed. A timeline of completion cannot be determined until the final design has been developed and approved.

“We recognize the importance of Newfound Gap Road to our neighboring communities in our tourism based economy,” said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “Therefore we are evaluating all reconstruction options to make sure the road work is completed in a timely but safe and efficient manner.”

The park is moving forward on re-vegetating the three acre debris field with native species to aid in sediment and erosion control. This measure will prevent run off from draining into the Beech Flats Prong stream located just below the slide area.

While the access from Gatlinburg to Cherokee will remained closed during the construction period, Newfound Gap Road has been opened from the Gatlinburg, TN entrance to Newfound Gap, and from Cherokee, NC entrance to Smokemont Campground. Visitors who want to sightsee and recreate in the park will still find opportunities through both entrances.

The landslide occurred after a storm stalled out across the region. An in-park weather station near Cherokee, NC recorded 11.3 inches of rain between January 13th and January 17th.

Hiking in the Smokies

1 comment:

Dante said...

Honestly, I'd rather they just leave this road closed. It might help with the traffic by forcing through cars to go around the park. Spend the money on improving the routes outside and around the park. Better yet, force the cars to park in Gatlinburg or at the VCs then set up a shuttle bus system. These work well in Yosemite.

This would also allow the park to be in a position to charge entrance fees rather than attacking us backpackers with silly reservation fees.

Some of the locals may complain, but the truth is it isn't much longer of a drive to go around when you factor in the traffic especially during the ridiculous Fall colors season. Improvement to route 321 and 19 would make this a reasonable drive.