ASHEVILLE – Orange barrels have been flying out of the Pigeon River Gorge on Interstate 40 near the North-Carolina Tennessee border.
On Wednesday morning, N.C. Department of Transportation officials removed the final orange barrels that had closed one lane in each direction for the last month.
All four lanes of the interstate are now open near mile post 7 and will remain open at all hours through the Labor Day weekend holiday. Some finishing detail work remains to be completed at night.
The re-opening comes ahead of what is expected to be a busy Labor Day holiday weekend for travellers.
“We’re happy to complete this important safety improvement project on a busy interstate,” Division 14 Resident Engineer Aaron Powell said. “This work is critical to getting the rock slope to a point where we don’t believe there will be another major slide that closes the road for weeks or months.”
In the last month, workers safely milled, paved and striped the freeway, installed new drainage and built a new median barrier. The slope is 20 stories high at its peak and stretches for three football fields from beginning to end.
Previous work in the area known for landslides included blasting more than 110,000 tons of dirt and rock off the mountains since a slide in May of 2015. Workers also installed 15-to-20 foot steel rods into the rock and bolted them for security.
Other safety measures include a new barrier wall running along the westbound lane, and a high-tension restraining fence to limit loose rocks. GLF Construction Corporation completed the contract worth $6.3 million.
The N.C. Department of transportation strives daily to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities as part of Governor McCrory’s 25-year Vision for transportation. Having all lanes open will also improve the access North Carolinians have to commerce, education, health care and recreation on both sides of the state line.
State transportation officials remind motorists to watch for new signs in the area, remain alert when driving and obey posted speed limits.
In addition, the Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program have already launched the Labor Day Booze It and Loose It campaign, stepping up enforcement of impaired driving laws through Sept. 5.