Lane closure for rock slide repair will begin Thursday on ‘ The Dragon’
JOEL DAVIS | (email@example.com)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is reducing a section of U.S. 129 to one lane to allow crews to stabilize the site of a 2012 rock slide.
Beginning Thursday, the roadway, also known as the “Dragon,” will be reduced to one lane controlled by a temporary traffic signal at mile marker 9.5, said TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi.
The contractor is Kentucky-based Kay & Kay Contracting, LLC. The estimated cost of the project is $685,000, and the estimated completion date is Aug. 31. Excess material will be cleared from the slope, and wire mesh will be installed.
The temporary signal was installed Monday and will remain on flash until becoming operational on Thursday. Motorists should be alert for changing conditions and use extreme caution in this area. The repairs stem from a March 2012 rock slide, located about nine miles north of the Tennessee-North Carolina state line, that was cleared after a few days.
In 2010, a much more extensive rock slide about two miles south of Chilhowee Dam resulted in the road being closed for four months, costing Tennessee merchants thousands of dollars in lost revenues.
This time around, Jody Montgomery, who operates Punkin Center Motorcycle Resort, off U.S. 129, said he did not expect the closure of one lane to hurt business.
The Dragon refers to an 11.1-mile section of U.S. 129 that runs from Tab Cat Creek Bridge to Deal’s Gap in North Carolina. Its 318 curves are considered a world-class ride for motorcyclists and small sports car enthusiasts.
“The Dragon is a very important tourist draw to Blount County for not only motorcycle tourists but thrill-seekers as well,” said Bryan Daniels, Blount Partnership president and CEO. “It’s considered by many to be among the most exciting motorcycle roads in America and with its numerous curves. It makes the twisting road one of the most dangerous and electrifying around. Tourists get a sense of accomplishment once they complete the scenic route and many use The Dragon as an excuse to visit the Smoky Mountains.”
The Dragon is a starting point for many newcomers to Blount County, Daniels said. “We get a lot of people coming into the visitor’s center that don’t know anything about the area other than The Dragon. So, we use that as an opportunity to open their eyes to the many beautiful and exciting things there are to do in Blount County. The Dragon is a huge selling point for this community, and we relish every opportunity we get to promote it when visiting with group travel operators and courting motorcycle enthusiast and clubs.”