CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) – The Tennessee Department of Transportation will receive $3.8 million in federal assistance to pay for the clean-up of the massive US 64 rockslide.
The Federal Highway Administration notified TDOT on Thursday, January 14, 2010 that the rockslide cleanup effort does qualify for 100% federal reimbursement as long as work is completed within 180 days of incident. On November 10, 2009 a portion of Little Frog Mountain slid onto US 64 completely blocking the major east/west corridor in southeastern Tennessee. TDOT will have the roadway reopened to traffic by March 31, 2010, well ahead of the 180-day provision.
"The rockslide has placed a tremendous hardship on the people of Polk County and I have emphasized to TDOT the importance of moving quickly, but without jeopardizing safety, to reopen this roadway," said Governor Phil Bredesen. "I have had a number of discussions with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and TDOT to determine how the state can assist the area. I have also met with Senator Dewayne Bunch and Representative Eric Watson, and I appreciate their continued efforts to find relief for those affected by this slide. With their help, we've received this approval from the federal government, which will help expedite the clean up."
TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely added, "We realize the incredible burden the closure of US 64 has put on families in eastern Polk County who regularly travel to Benton, Cleveland and Chattanooga for work and school. TDOT is committed to finishing this project as quickly and safely as possible. Meanwhile, families may apply for assistance with their transportation costs through the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency, an organization dedicated to assisting communities during difficult times."
The November 10, 2009 rockslide resulted in the complete closure of US 64 at mile marker 17.6 at TVA Ocoee Dam No. 2. TDOT immediately awarded an emergency contract to contractor Charles Blalock & Sons from Sevierville, Tennessee, and clean-up work began at the site on November 16, 2009.
To date, crews have removed around 5,500 tons of debris from the site. Workers have stabilized the western side of the slope and are now beginning the difficult task of addressing the eastern side where a large, unstable diagonal rock shelf about 22 feet thick must be split using small controlled blasts. Crews will also drive large 40 ft. long rock anchors into the rock to secure it in place.
This week, the contractor gained the first unobstructed movement of machines and personnel from the east to the west side of the main slide area since the incident occurred. This weekend, crews will continue scaling (removing loose rock by hand) and hauling material as drilling crews begin the dangerous operation of drilling the vulnerable eastern slope in preparation for blasting next week. Installation of rock anchors on the west side of the slide area is also scheduled to begin next week.
Once all the rock is stabilized, workers will remove the remaining debris at the foot of the mountain. The contractor will then repair the damaged roadbed and TDOT crews will repave U.S. 64 and reopen it to traffic.
Motorists traveling to the area from Chattanooga or Cleveland should take I-75 North to Exit 60 (SR-68, Sweetwater) and follow SR-68 South through Monroe County and into Ducktown in Polk County. Those traveling from North Carolina are advised to take US 74 to SR-68 North at Ducktown through Polk County then onto I-75 at Sweetwater in Monroe County.
Motorists may also utilize a route through northern Georgia to travel around the rockslide area. From Copperhill/McCaysville at the Georgia State Line take Georgia Route 5 to U.S. Highway 76 to U.S. Highway 411 north to the Tennessee state line and on into Cleveland.
TDOT is providing a live look at the work underway to clear the rockslide via a time-lapse camera accessible by logging onto TDOT's US 64 Rockslide web page (http://bit.ly/1Tlc8m) where you can also sign up to receive the weekly US 64 Rockslide newsletter.
For more information on TDOT road construction projects visit the TDOT SmartWay web site at http://www.tn.gov/tdot/tdotsmartway/. Travelers may also dial "511" for travel information or follow TDOT on Twitter. For statewide traffic updates follow TN511 or for the Chattanooga area, including updates on the US64 rockslide, follow Chattanooga511.
Motorists are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly. Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. TDOT advises drivers to "Know before you go!" by checking traffic conditions before leaving for your destination.