UPDATE: TDOT continues cleanup Polk County rockslide - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: TDOT continues cleanup Polk County rockslide

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POLK COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: Two lanes of traffic are open after a rockslide on U. S. 64 in Polk County Saturday.  

TDOT crews have been trying to stop more rocks from falling on Highway 64 in Polk County near Maddens Branch, traffic was down to one lane. Rock and mudslides are common on this stretch of highway and can take days or even weeks to properly clear.

Officials say this latest rockslide near mile marker 13, is the largest they've seen all year long. 

"Wet weather and Polk County U.S. 64 do not mix at times," said Jennifer Flynn, Community Relations Officer, TDOT Region 2. 

Crews have been working day and night to clean up the mess. TDOT Region 2 spokesperson Jennifer Flynn tells Channel 3 while that section of highway is a headache, the rockslide could have been worse. 

"We are fortunate this particular rockslide allowed us to keep one lane of the traffic open because when it's totally closed there are no good detour routes in that area," said Flynn. 

Crews constantly monitor the area looking for unstable ground. It can be tough with relentless rain in the forecast. Officials say any impassable rock and mudslide here could mean at least a 2-hour detour for nearby residents. The good news is there are safety plans and projects already in the works. 

"We've got a safety project currently underway," said Flynn.

In addition to adding rock fall fences to problem areas, Flynn says their $1.2 million dollar Miscellaneous Safety Improvements Project is currently working to re-surface pavement and increase signage from State Route 314 to west of State Route 30. 

"It's just the whole corridor, we're looking at where we can add some pavement and add some right of ways," said Flynn. 

Officials say there is a long term solution now in the environmental phase, that could mean developing a new road or a new tunnel in the area but that could take years to complete. 

"We've got many things going up there... it's just one of those things where we're doing the best we can and will continue to monitor the corridor to the best of our ability," said Flynn. 

Officials say they hope to have the section of highway cleared by Monday night or Tuesday afternoon. The Miscellaneous Safety Improvements Project is scheduled to be competed by August of this year. If you see any road hazard or potential rock/ mudslide hazard, you should report it to your local TDOT office immediately. 

UPDATE: Traffic moves near the Ocoee River, but very slowly. "We're like maybe three miles from home, just traveled like 600 miles. Wasn't expecting this," said Leroy Essex, motorist.

TDOT crews try to keep more rocks from falling, by pulling down the loose rocks that didn't come with the initial slide. TDOT shared overnight photos with Channel 3. They'd have to wait for daylight to figure out what caused this massive rock to fall.

"We just came out of winter, the moisture got into those cracks, froze and expanded, separated the rocks, just didn't have enough cohesion to stick together, and it broke loose and fell down," said Adam Casteel, District Supervisor, TDOT.

Around noon people driving by saw mud coming down about a mile away. TDOT immediately took a look.

"There was an area a whole lot smaller than this one, that slid off side of the mountain, partially blocking the road," said Casteel.

Rock and mud slides are common here, and can be a headache.

"Honestly I would like to see more barricades set up on this side of the road to try to protect more people, to keep it held back, so we don't have to go through inconveniences like this," said Essex.

No one was injured. TDOT says they are aware the area is prone to mud and rock slides. They say they have safety improvements in the works. To find out more about those improvements visit http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/corridork/

PREVIOUS STORY: The Tennessee Department of Transportation confirms to Channel 3 that they are working on cleaning up the rock slide on Highway 64 westbound near the Ocoee River Center in Polk County. 

TDOT says it happened near Maddens Branch. Traffic is down to one lane. 

Stay with Channel 3 and WRCBtv.com for more on this developing story.  
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