Rock slide on "The Dragon" expected to restrict traffic into next week

TDOT is redirecting traffic after a rock slide on U.S. Route 129 also known as, "The Dragon."

"The Dragon" rock slide (Courtesy: TDOT)

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- An early Friday morning rock slide shutdown a popular sightseeing route.

The large rocks and trees fell on U.S. 129 in Blount County, near the start of the area known as "The Dragon."

TDOT estimates cleanup will last into early next week.

This also didn't time out well, because the weekend is when most people head up to slay "The Dragon."

Hundreds of curves create the stretch of U.S. 129/ SR 115, more often called "The Dragon."

But, it's closed at mile-marker 11, the start of the popular route.

Ethan Settlemires came down from Kentucky with friends, but stopped where the road closes. He said, "We were wanting to come down for the weekend, hopefully get to ride 'The Dragon' for a little bit and then go to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and see that."

They rode their motorcycles just to enjoy the route, but what they couldn't see from from the road closure is the slide, a couple of miles up, which is a pile of soil, trees and rock covering most of the road.

"So, it kind of put a damper on the plans," Ethan said.

"We looked and it said good weather so we figured we could head on down," he explained. But, unfortunately heavy rain Thursday night was likely too much for the shale to handle.

Friday they were not able to do much with the slide, as crews described it as very unstable. There was still large pieces at the top of the hillside falling on occasion.

Engineers with the Tennessee Department of Transportation are working on a plan to stabilize the mountainside.

In the meantime, area businesses are ready to help visitors around the closed road.

Laurie Carter works at the U.S. 129 Dragon Harley-Davidson store. She said, "We have returning customers, new customers, customers from out of state, out of the country, they don't know what's going on until they get here, so we accommodate them as need be."

Many motorcycle riders stop at the store, since it's open on weekends in March.

Laurie said when there is a slide people still come to town, so they help them discover new routes. "We'll give them directions for different ways to go," she said.

Ethan and his friends got directions for other roads that would be nice to ride on, and said, "So we're going to try to find those see how they match up to 'The Dragon'."

If you're planning to travel through the area, not just enjoy the views, TDOT has several suggested alternate routes.

Detours:
From North Carolina - Motorists traveling on U.S. 74 can take State Route 68 north to Ducktown. Continue on SR-68 through Polk and Monroe Counties to I-75 in Sweetwater. (Non-Commercial Traffic Only)

Motorists traveling on State Route 143 in North Carolina will continue to travel north onto State Route 165 to Tellico Plains to State Route 68 north to U.S. 411 (State Route 35) toward Maryville. (Non-Commercial Traffic Only)

Motorists can also use U.S. 441 to travel through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Cherokee, North Carolina.

For travel and TDOT construction information while on the road, call 511.

You can also receive traffic alerts via TDOT's multiple Twitter feeds, including statewide traffic tweets.

Smart phone users can use the TDOT SmartWay Mobile website at
http://m.tdot.tn.gov/SmartWay/, to access TDOT's SmartWay cameras and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes.


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