County road repair cost: $1 million
By Iva Butler and Matthew Stewart
The Blount County Agenda Committee has forwarded to the full County Commission a proposed county road repair project that could cost up to a $1 million.
A 250-foot slide that occurred Jan. 17 on Long Rifle Road in Walland is the worst flood damage the county has ever encountered, according to Blount County Road Superintendent Bill Dunlap.
Long Rifle Road has little winter traffic, he said. The road has one full-time resident and four seasonal residents, which increases summer traffic.
Dunlap and Chris Soro, owner of Alcoa engineering company C2RL, spoke Tuesday night at the Agenda Committee meeting. They discussed the potential scope of work to repair the road and discussed potential funding avenues.
Officials have visited the site on three occasions between Jan. 18 and Feb. 6, according to Soro’s report. If a ready source of suitable fill material is located nearby, Soro estimated the project would cost between $500,000 and $750,000. If a substantial haul is required, the engineer advised that this number could exceed $1 million.
C2RL will be able to get more concrete estimates when employees can determine geotechnical conditions underneath the road, Soro said. He further advised that pavement on the ravine’s other side has started to fail, as well.
“It’s a significant project,” he said. The engineer estimated that 350 feet of roadway will have to be repaired.
Major core drillings would be required at 50-foot intervals to determine where bedrock, solid rock, is located, Soro said. Workers would remove and rebuild this portion of the road.
Steel pilings would be placed from the road to the bedrock, forming a dam around the slide area to contain the material under the road.
The project’s cost will depend on how deep the steel pilings must be driven, but it’s imperative that the pilings be driven.
“If you don’t hit bedrock with the pilings, you’re just wasting your time,” Dunlap said.
Five years old
Dunlap and Soro revisited the site on Monday. They found the road has shifted some more on the shoulder and additional cracks are developing in the asphalt. If the cracks get more severe, officials will have to completely close the road.
Currently, Dunlap is allowing the one full-time resident in Homestead Subdivision in Blount County to use the lane farthest from the slide for access. The highway superintendent has explained the dangers in using the road to the resident, who wants to use one-lane for access to East Millers Cove Road in Blount County. The resident’s house is up the mountain from the slide.
If the road is closed at that point, the resident’s access will be through Happy Hollow Road, which runs into Wear’s Valley Road in Sevier County.
Crews are checking Long Rifle Road daily to make sure the situation hasn’t worsened, Dunlap said. The road is only about five years old.
Federal aid sought
Dunlap is seeking federal disaster relief money to repair flood damage. He has given Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) damage estimates and they sent those figures on to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that group is occupied with storm damage in the Northeast.
Dunlap is asking for almost $1.5 million in disaster relief funding, which includes money for Long Rifle Road repairs. However, the highway superintendent hasn’t heard back from the federal agency that’s currently addressing problems in the Northeast.
The Agenda Committee has forwarded a recommendation to the full commission that the Highway Department apply for funding. Committee members further recommending that future project materials be forwarded to the Budget Committee and County Commission.
The Agenda Committee also approved a motion seeking information about the road and subdivision from the Planning Commission. Several commissioners noted that the subdivision was involved in litigation with the county but couldn’t recall if the road was involved, as well.