While engineers have completed their initial assessment on the blown-out section of the Newfound Gap Road across Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they have no timetable yet for when the road will be rebuilt and open for traffic.
The Federal Highways Administration engineers now are in the initial stage of preparation work to reconstruct the 200 linear feet of road washed out by a muddy landslide back on January 16. 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, park officials said.
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 that 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, park officials said.
“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, Tennessee, entrance to Newfound Gap, and from Cherokee, North Carolina, entrance to Smokemont Campground. Visitors who want to sightsee and recreate in the park will still find opportunities through both entrances.