Giant nails may help prevent potential landslide on Lookout Mountain

Giant nails may help prevent potential landslide on Lookout Mountain

December 4th, 2012 by Tim Omarzu in News

Landslide road work

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Alabama Department of Transportation officials hope to nail down a potential landslide problem on Lookout Mountain outside Fort Payne.

Literally.

The agency has hired Soil Nail Launcher Inc. of Grand Junction, Colo., to shoot long, naillike tubes into slumping soil downslope of Highway 35 inside the Fort Payne city limits, where the state road is known as Wallace Avenue.

The company repairs landslides around the country, including in Tennessee. This will be its first job in Alabama.

"As far as I know, it's the first time in Alabama," said Johnny Harris, department of transportation division engineer for the state's nine northeastern counties.

The work will cost a little less than $3 million, Harris said. That's three to five times less expensive than going the standard route of building a rock buttress below a soft spot and using rock fill above the buttress to stablize the slope, he said.

The soil nailing should go faster, too, he said.

"That's one of the things that's attractive about this process, as well: It can be done a lot quicker. And hopefully with good results," Harris said.

The Colorado company is guaranteeing its work for five years with a performance bond, he said.

Work should start Monday, State Materials and Test Engineer Buddy Cox said. The soil nailing should take 16 to 30 days, depending on the weather, Cox said. One lane of the road will remain open and traffic will alternate directions.

"It will create a travel headache for people who use the mountain every day," Fort Payne Police Chief Randy Bynum said.

Harris said the earth is moving slowly at four spots below the road; the largest soft spot is about 400 feet long.

"We wanted to stabilize it before it got to the failure situation," he said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.