I-26 mudslide repair will take longer than first thought

Matthew Lane • Apr 28, 2020 at 3:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Caution barrels are going to remain on a short section of Interstate 26 for the foreseeable future.

The barrels were set up earlier this month on the eastbound side of the interstate, blocking off the truck climbing lane near mile marker 2. It was done in the wake of a mudslide that took place near the top of Bays Mountain during the early morning hours of April 13.

On that day, mud, rocks and trees slid off the mountain, blocking two eastbound lanes of the interstate and causing minor traffic delays for more than three hours. The Tennessee Department of Transportation had both travel lanes open by 10:30 a.m. that morning, but TDOT kept the truck climbing lane closed until the shoulder of the road was patched and the hilltop stabilized.

Initially, that work was expected to take place last week. However, the work is going to take a little longer, as Mark Nagi, spokesperson for TDOT, explained on Monday.

“At this time, we don't know when the remainder of the debris will be removed,” Nagi said. “Our geo-technical office is still looking into corrective actions to repair the failure area, which is well above the roadway and left a debris flow of about 120 feet outside TDOT's right of way.”

The geo-technical office is simply concerned about additional debris falling off the mountain, Nagi said.

TDOT is also having to work with adjacent property owners to come up with a plan to logistically get equipment up to the site to stabilize that part of the mountain, Nagi said. The mountain has to be stabilized first, then the shoulder of the interstate has to be patched, and finally the truck climbing lane can be reopened.

Nagi said it's not been determined when that work is going to take place.

And if you're wondering why the traffic cones were replaced with traffic barrels, Nagi explains that too.

“The barrels were installed because it will be a longer closure than what we feel cones were warranted for, but we shortened the closure area as well,” Nagi said. “Barrels withstand the wind more effectively and motorists don't hit them nearly as often as cones.”

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