Crews work 20 hours a day to clean up rock slide

By: Amber Miller Email
By: Amber Miller Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- There is good news if you're anxious in traveling through the North Carolina mountains. Contractors are making a lot of progress on the I-40 rock slide clean up.

They are now working night and day to get the job done.

More than 7,000 dump truck loads of rock have been removed and the pavement is visible again where debris used to cover the road.

But months of work still lie ahead.

"You can think of it as the bottom of the slope fell out. And there's a lot of material that remained up on the mountainside, but at anytime it's waiting to fall into the road," NC DOT Transportation Technician Michael Patton explained.

Before you can safely drive through, crews have to remove and secure boulders and trees.

"We're going to be installing around 600 rock bolts and rock anchors to hold that material where it's at right now," Patton said.

With a helicopter hovering overhead, Patton continued. "The helicopter-- the bolts that we're installing are way up near the top of the slide, so it's much easier for him to ferry equipment, machinery and things like that up to the top. And, at the same time he's bringing timber that we've cut off the slope."

As of this week, contractors are on the job 20 hours a day.

Their mission is to reopen I-40 in March, depending on weather.

"The cold we can deal with. A lot of these guys are from Canada. They've worked in places like the Arctic," Patton said.

Snow and rain would make it more difficult, but NC DOT believes this plan is the best option.

"In theory, this was probably the least expensive way to go; as well as possibly the quickest. But once again, hindsight is 20/20. We'll know better when we're done."

All lanes on I-40 have been closed from Exit 451 in Tennessee to Exit 20 in North Carolina since the slide happened.

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