I-40 cleared of rock-slide debris and open to motorists

Interstate 40 near the Tennessee line in Haywood County reopened early Sunday morning following two rockslides in as many weeks. Only one lane of the Interstate is open through the Pigeon River Gorge near the state line, however.

Following the initial rockslide at mile marker 451 in Tennessee, about one mile from the North Carolina state border on Jan. 31, a second rockslide occurred on Feb. 3 near mile marker 7 in North Carolina.

The westbound lanes of the Interstate in Haywood County were closed to traffic for only six days — shorter than earlier estimates and far shorter than a five-month closure two years ago.

The latest slide left 600 tons of rock in the roadway, with some boulders the size of small cars.

N.C. Department of Transportation crews, with help from Ameritech Slope Constructors Inc. of Asheville, removed an additional 150 tons of loose rock from the mountainside and hauled off the debris from the road by the late afternoon Sunday. The site is now clear and safe for travel.

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