(WBIR) - Drivers heading to or from North Carolina should expect some major traffic delays over the next few weeks.
Starting on Wednesday, July 27th, NCDOT will reduce traffic to one lane on I-40 in each direction at mile markers 6 and 8 on the North Carolina side. The state Department of Transportation is predicting significant delays as a result.
The one-mile lane closures are to finish up a project to remove rock and soil above the highway to reduce the chances of a future rockslide in that area.
Similar closures occurred in June 2015 as part of the same project and traffic delays exceeded one hour during peak times then, said state NC Department of Transportation spokesman David Uchiyama. Backups are most likely in the afternoon and on weekends, he said.
Workers will be milling, repaving and striping I-40 in the area around Exit 7 and installing new drainage and a new median barrier wall. They hope to finish that part of the job and have four lanes open again by Labor Day, Uchiyama said.
Tractor-trailers and other vehicles wider than 14 feet are required to take an alternative route around the construction during the lane closures. The most common detour is to take Interstate 26 West from Asheville, then Interstate 81 South in Tennessee to reconnect with I-40.
That trip ordinarily takes longer than staying on I-40 the entire way, but could be faster during periods of heavy traffic.
The section of I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge has been hit by numerous landslides over the years, some of which have closed the road for weeks or months at a time.
Workers have taken more than 110,000 tons of dirt and rock off the slope above I-40 as part of this project, which began in May 2015, to reduce the chance of a slide in the affected area to the west of Exit 7. They have also bolted steel rods 15 to 20 feet in length into the rock and installed a high-tension restraining fence, thick netting and a barrier wall on the shoulder of westbound lanes, all in an effort to keep rocks from rolling onto travel lanes.
Work is expected to be complete by Friday, August 19th.
Automated information about traffic in the area is available by calling 511 and following voice prompts or visiting the traveler services section of NCDOT.gov.
From East Tennessee (wide load detour and alternate route)
From Western North Carolina (wide load detour and alternate route)
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