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10:59 p.m. January 24, 2013
Reconstruction of Newfound Gap Road following January 16 landslide to begin next week
By Jeaneane Payne

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 very large landslide which occurred on January 16. 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.

newfound gap road landslide

It is believed the landslide was caused by two days of heavy rainfall with a 9 inch accumulation of rain along with a stream found to be flowing underneath the roadway. National Park Public Affairs Management Assistant Dana Soehn indicated she and a park ranger had closed the road from the Cherokee, NC side of the Park due to flooding ten minutes prior to the landslide. "I noticed a 6 inch gap between the road and the shoulder and radioed a Park employee that he needed to check it out. He called me 15 minutes later and informed me that the road was gone."

It is not known if travel by numerous semi-tractor trailers on Newfound Gap Road during the closure of I-40 in 2011 contributed to a weakening of the road. Semis are not permitted on Newfound Gap Road, but they frequently accessed the road.

The first phase of reconstruction 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 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."

newfound gap road landslide

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.

Published January 24, 2013

Related Articles:
Newfound Gap Road landslide repair work to begin at a cost of up to $7.2 million
National Park Service expects final assessment of Newfound Gap Road landslide later this week
First assessment made of landslide on Newfound Gap Road
Landslide causes indefinite closure of Newfound Gap Road

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