published Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Grundy road reopens early after rock slide

Long hours and friendly landowners played in a role in getting state Route 108 in Grundy County reopened weeks ahead of schedule after a rock slide a little more than a week ago, officials said.

The road was reopened to traffic Sunday afternoon. Officials had estimated the work could take three or four weeks.

Wright Brothers Construction, of Charleston, Tenn., worked around the clock at times to clear 23,000 tons of rock from the road at a place local people called “hanging rock,” Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said Monday.

The reopened section of Route 108 carries more than 2,000 vehicles per day and is widely used by local residents as a route to McMinnville.

“We were able to work out agreements with adjacent property owners to place the [slide] material on the nearby slopes,” Flynn said.

That resulted in a couple of benefits, she said.

“The slopes were shored up, and the contractor did not have to haul material from the site,” she said.

Wright Brothers project manager Bart Saucier said the company “had the right equipment and pretty experienced crews to do that type of work.”

The slide produced enough rubble to fill about 1,700 dump trucks if it all had to be carried off, Saucier said.

“We hauled off some, but most of it we were able to push across the road onto the slope,” he said.

Jeremy Price, the project supervisor for the transportation department, said last week that the main work was reducing the giant boulders — one the size of a house and weighing an estimated 2,000 tons — to manageable rubble.

Some of the rubble was used to build a ramp beside the 2,000-ton rock so a drill rig could reach the top of it to make holes for dynamite, officials said.

Flynn said a separate contract will be signed this week for work to apply a concrete cover to further stabilize the mountainside and for final paving, striping and guardrail work.

“Further lane closures will be necessary in the impacted area, but at least one lane of traffic will be maintained at all times while the work takes place,” she said.

The rest of the project should take about four to six weeks, Flynn said.

The slide happened just after midnight on Feb. 20 about halfway between Viola and Altamont.

State geologists said last week that the entire sandstone and shale bluff broke away from the mountainside and fell into the road.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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