The second phase of construction to repair the 200-foot void on Newfound Gap Road has begun, over a month after a landslide on Jan. 16 undercut the road near mile marker 22 between Collins Creeks and Webb Overlook, seven miles below Newfound Gap on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The construction crew from Robinsville, N.C.-based Phillips & Jordan, Inc., began work on the second phase of the repair Feb. 22, and it's scheduled to be complete by May 15. The $4 million contract includes a monetary incentive of $18,000 per day to the contractor for each day of completion prior to May 15, up to a maximum of $500,000 offered jointly by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian (EBCI) and the National Park Service.
"One of our goals is to try to get this repaired as quickly as possible, because we understand that it does affect the surrounding communities," said park spokeswoman Molly Schroer.
Schroer said Phase 1 construction began soon after the landslide occurred, and consisted of removing debris, developing an access road to the slide area and stabilizing the slope above the work area.
Phase 2 will consist of filling the gap with 40,000 cubic yards — or about 4,000 dump trucks — of material, as well as rebuilding the paved roadway as a reinforced full slope roadway.
"It's mainly focusing on the main road and building up this slope. That's what they're starting to do because they've got to rebuild this slope up to make the roadway," Schroer said. "There's no retaining wall, it's just the slope."
A unknown spring under the roadway, combined with the heavy rainfall and inclement weather during January, caused the landslide. Schroer said the design will allow for the drainage of water to protect from future damage.
"They're mitigating the drainage issue that caused the initial slide," Schroer said.
The park is also working on seeding and re-vegetating the three-acre debris field surrounding the slide area to aid in sediment and erosion control.
Construction is currently only taking place during the day, but Schroer said, starting next week, the crews will work 24 hours a day, as the contractor will be charged $18,000 each day past the May 15 deadline.
Financial resources for the contract come from a regional emergency fund, but the park is requesting federal emergency funds to supplement the regional fund.