Rock slides, downed trees, sinking spots — the W Road has had it all. But last week, new and very large cracks formed on the recently repaired road because of what officials suspect were geological shifts.
"We've obviously been monitoring the road for a while now, and it has been moving in the past. This past week it moved again," said Todd Leamon, Hamilton County's administrator of public works.
To cope with the new cracks, which Leamon described as being several inches deep and several inches wide, county officials decided to close the road. Repairs are expected to take 10-12 weeks.
Leamon said in a news release that closing the road will speed repairs.
"We'll spend the next week determining exactly what repairs are necessary," he said.
Those repairs could include working on slope stability and adding a subgrade drainage system.
The historic W Road, which historians say dates as far back as an 1835 wagon trail, has a history of trouble. In 2010, a 15- to 20-foot section of the road showed evidence of sinking. Crews opened the road and found that an 1890s-era drainage pipe had broken and leaking rainwater was sweeping away the earth underneath the road. The 120-year-old, 24-inch pipe was replaced.
Just two years later, heavy rains brought a rock slide tumbling down on the road that zigzags up the side of Signal Mountain.
Last week marked the end of another bout of repairs. Crews completed surface crack filling and asphalt overlay repairs in areas of concern, the news release states.
The sudden appearance of the cracks so soon after repairs were completed prompted the county to initiate emergency repairs, according to the release.
The main trouble spot is just below the last switchback coming down the mountain.