Courtesy National Park Service
Repair crews at work on a section of U.S. 441 washed out by a January slide.

Work crews have begun removing debris, stabilizing the hillside and building an access road to start repairs on U.S. 441 between Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Cherokee, N.C., where a landslide Jan. 15 took out a 200-ft section of road.

APAC-Atlantic, Harrison Division, of Knoxville started work Jan. 28 and is expected to complete it “in a few weeks,” according to National Park Service officials. The estimated cost is $200,000.

The highway, known as Newfound Gap Road, carries about 6,000-7,000 vehicles daily through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The slide moved about 90,000 cu yds of trees, brush and dirt about 900 yds down the mountain and left a gash 40-50-ft deep, according to Dana Soehn, park spokeswoman.

The slide was caused by heavy rains — more than nine inches of rain in three days — and by a previously-uniscovered subterranean spring.

The road grade is 15% at the site and the mountain grade is 1:1, Soehn said.

The Federal Highway Administration brought in engineers, geothermal experts and surveyors to examine the site.

APAC-Atlantic crews will be able to mobilize equipment on the closed highway section in North Carolina and in parking pull-off areas in the area, Soehn said.

The FHWA has posted a pre-solicitation for qualified contractors for highway reconstruction phase, estimated to cost between $3 million and $7 million.

The contract is expected to be awarded by mid-February with work to be finished by mid-May to early June, park officials said.

An additional 150 ft or more of highway will have to be removed for the reconstruction, Soehn said.

The two-lane asphalt highway was built in the 1930s with the park. The slide section, downhill from the original road, was part of a realignment construction in the 1960s, Soehn said.

The slide is above Beech Flats Prong, part of the headwaters of the Oconaluftee River, a popular trout stream.