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Rockslide closes I-40 at state line for a week

A rockslide that closed Interstate 40 near the Tennessee state lane on Friday night will close the highway for a week and require a 50-mile detour, the NCDOT said.

The work will require the N.C. Department of Transportation to keep the interstate closed about a week for the safety of contract workers and those who would be driving in the area. The rock slide at mile marker 7.5 closed I-40 at the state line for westbound traffic and exit 20 for eastbound traffic. Debris was still falling Saturday morning as geotechnical experts surveyed the mountainside. Engineers determined that work is required to stabilize the 500-foot wide area, which is near Hurricane Creek.

NCDOT has awarded an emergency contract to Harrison Construction as part of another contract to improve I-40 later this spring. Crews will be on site Saturday afternoon. In order to safely execute that contract, traffic will be limited to one lane in each direction — on the eastbound side of a concrete median — for an additional six to eight weeks.

“For everybody’s safety — drivers, workers, contractors — we need to keep the road closed for about a week,” Division 14 Engineer Brian Burch said. “At that point, we anticipate having enough material down the mountain that we can restore one lane of traffic in each direction.”

Preliminary plans include removing approximately 27,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock and other debris, followed by the installation of preventative measures such as a netting or catchment fence. GeoTechnical experts will help develop the detailed plans.

Drivers need to allow extra travel time. The detour route uses a combination of I-40, I-240, I-26, and I-81 through Asheville and Johnson City. The distance from Asheville to the I-40/I-81 junction in Tennessee is about 50 miles longer than driving through the Pigeon River Gorge.