Clearing rock slide could take longer than expected

Posted October 28, 2009 3:11 p.m. EDT
Updated October 28, 2009 8:19 p.m. EDT

— State transportation officials say clearing Interstate 40 where a rock slide blocked the highway in both directions near the North Carolina-Tennessee line could take longer than first thought.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported the state doesn't have a precise timetable for clearing rocks from the slide, which occurred about 2 a.m. Sunday in Haywood County.

Highway engineer Joel Setzer with the North Carolina Transportation Department says the original estimate of three months probably is unrealistic.

Crews cleared rubble from the eastbound lanes Tuesday and used a tractor-mounted hammer drill to break up some of the large boulders at the base of the 200-foot-wide slide.

Perdue seeks federal funds to clear rock slide

Gov. Beverly Purdue on Wednesday signed an emergency declaration that will allow the state to seek federal funding to clear debris from the slide.

Initial damage assessments estimate the cleanup and repair rill cost $7 million to $9 million to complete.

Perdue, as well as Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti and other officials toured the rockslide site and received a briefing from local transportation officials.

"I want to reopen I-40 as quickly as possible with public safety our first goal," Perdue said.

Motorists traveling west to Tennessee should take I-40 West to Interstate 240 West (Exit 53B) in Asheville to I-26 West (Exit 4A), then follow I-26 to Interstate 81 South (Exit 8A) in Tennessee, back to I-40.

Eastbound motorists should follow the reverse route.

View Interstate 40 rockslide detour in a larger map