Newfound Gap Road reopens to traffic following landslide

Newfound Gap Road reopens to traffic following landslide

Posted:
This picture from January shows the road surface completely washed out. This picture from January shows the road surface completely washed out.
The road reopened Monday morning, one month ahead of schedule. The road reopened Monday morning, one month ahead of schedule.
Construction workers repaired the hillside that supports the road. Construction workers repaired the hillside that supports the road.
"I think Tennessee folks could have and should have stepped up on incentive dollars," said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks. "This road means as much to them as it does to us." "I think Tennessee folks could have and should have stepped up on incentive dollars," said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks. "This road means as much to them as it does to us."

By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopened to traffic Monday, one month ahead of schedule.

The road was shut down in January, after a massive landslide washed away the land supporting the road.

Crews have been working since then to restabilize the land and repair the roadway.

The road opened at 10 a.m. Monday.

Contractor Phillips & Jordan, Inc. was awarded the contract in February to complete the work by May 15, but surpassed that deadline by exactly one month.

P&J were given a $18,000 per day incentive package, up to 28 days, to get the project done ahead of schedule.

Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson says it was money well spent.

"Even in January, we valued this road to the local economy at over $150,000 a day based on the traffic at that time. And you can only imagine what that number would have been at the Easter time period, had this road been open what it would have meant to the economy," said Ditmanson.

Newfound Gap Road, also known as Highway 441, is the main route to North Carolina through the national park.

Although it has been agreed the impact of this closure has been equal on both sides, there are some concerns that the work to get the road reopened was not as equal.

"I think Tennessee folks could have and should have stepped up on incentive dollars," said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks. "This road means as much to them as it does to us."

Cherokee put up half the incentive dollars and the other half was covered by the National Park Service.

While none of those dollars came from the Tennessee side, park officials say both were equally involved in the process of getting the road back open.

"The congressional staff on both sides of the mountain have consistently stayed in touch with us and asked about the process moving forward and are very supportive of the national park," said Ditmanson.

All sides agree, getting the road open in time for the park's peak season is good news for everyone.

The total price tag for the project came in just under $4.8 million.

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