If you have ever traveled between Knoxville and Asheville on Interstate 40, then you know of the approximately 24 miles stretch in which the interstate is very narrow and winding through a pretty steep gorge. It is when you are driving on this winding road with two tunnels that you see the “Welcome to Tennessee” sign or the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign, depending on which direction you are going. It can be a pretty tough drive as there are no real shoulders to speak of and there is a “trucks only” lane. It’s four lanes but is divided by one of those concrete dividers which in some places is twice as tall as normal. When it’s raining, its particularly difficult.
Well, they blasted through rock to build this road along a creek and those rocks are subject to getting water in the cracks and also to extreme temperature changes. That makes rock slides a problem. Last year, they had a slide that took 3 months to clear. Over the weekend they had the worst slide that they have had in over a decade. The rock collapse took place around 2AM on Sunday near mile marker 3 on I-40 in North Carolina. It is said to be 50 feet deep and 100 feet long. (slide show) The boulders involved are said to be the size of mobile homes. That would explain why part of the plan is to blast those boulders to bits. No one was hurt in the slide which originally was estimated to be clear in 3 months. Now, reports are that the time to clear the Interstate for traffic appears to be longer as officials think the 3 month time frame is “unrealistic.” No one knows for sure when it will be open again, but some say I-40 won’t be open until February. Here is a detail of how North Carolina is planning to clear the debris and its kinda interesting. Also, here is some video of the scene. This is some ground level video to give you some perspective. Given the amount of traffic on that road and the tight turns that makes it tough to see far down the road, its amazing that no one was injured. Potentially it could have been one of those awful mult-car pile ups.
The early estimates is that it will cost about $10 million to set things right. Even though it’s an interstate system, the states are generally charged with maintaining the portions of the freeways in their state. But, North Carolina is looking for ways to come up with the cash and like so many others these days, the North Carolina governor wants money from the federal government…you know…the national ATM