The work on I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge will continue through the summer as crews complete stabilization efforts, but with both eastbound lanes and one westbound lane open, Western North Carolina’s main transportation artery is back in business [says the Smoky Mountain News].
The economic effects of the I-40 rockslide have been a source of attention ever since the road was closed. In March, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that it would hand out $1.4 million in loans to businesses affected by the slide, but the money was spread over the region from Asheville to Sevierville, Tenn.
The total cost for the repair project, initially slated for completion in February, is estimated to be $12.9 million, and according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the federal government will cover nearly 100 percent of the cost. ...
Before the rockslide, about 19,000 vehicles a day traveled on the road, and almost half of them were trucks. Businesses that directly relied on the commercial traffic, like gas stations and hotels have been hardest hit by the closure.
The folks in Cherokee are particularly thrilled.
“We are delighted the section of I-40 that has been closed since October 2009 has now reopened,” said Mary Jane Ferguson, director of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Marketing and Promotion. “It is especially welcomed at the beginning of seasonal visits to Western North Carolina and to Cherokee. Having I-40 West open will allow the leisure travel to choose the closest route to come visit all that Cherokee, NC has to offer. We look forward to those visits to Cherokee. We want our visitors to know they will be greeted with a warm welcome as it has been a long winter.”