GUILD, Tenn. — Don't take the scenic U.S. Highway 41 route from Chattanooga to Jasper for the next week. The road is shut down until July 4 while crews construct new detour roads around a slide repair project that is expected to continue until November.
A section just over a mile long was closed Monday while the contractor builds temporary "run-around roads" because the only open traffic lane is shifting. It should reopen to traffic by July 4, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn. Flashing message boards and orange signs alert drivers to the closure.
On a mission on Thursday, Georgia motorist Sean Le drove north on Highway 41 from the Chattanooga end all the way to the "Road Closed" barricade, stopping to turn around and check the GPS on his phone.
Le works for T-Mobile and has been "driving the entire Chattanooga area" tracking the cellular company's service coverage, he said. Le had to mark his location from each end of the project to show part of the route is blocked and will be missing from his tracking data.
To match up his route, Le had to backtrack from the Chattanooga end of the project, take Interstate 24 to the Haletown exit in Marion County and drive south of Highway 41 to the other end of the project to notch a GPS reading as close to the closure as possible to show the gap between the two points, he said.
It was a 30-mile trip to reach the other end of the 1.2 mile project.
"I hate that it's closed," Le said. "It's so unexpected and inconvenient."
But he's understanding.
"They gotta do what they gotta do," Le said, noting that he'd rather encounter slide repairs than "fall in."
TDOT contractor Dement Construction Company LLC is in the middle of a $16.5 million slide repair project started in May to fix four areas where the mountainside has given way or collapsed.
U.S. 41's path around Aetna Mountain has been a maintenance problem for decades but the most recent issues arose in December and worsened in February with record-setting rain. TDOT stopped attempts at a quick fix in April and decided to seek a longer-term solution in the current project.
Flynn said the work is "progressing well with the exception of the one lane we're trying to maintain, which is the reason for the detour."
Meanwhile, I-24 is only one way around the closure until next week.
Truckers should know there's another nearby tight spot on the State Route 156 link to I-24 in Guild where work on a two-lane bridge over Running Water Creek — part of Lake Nickajack — restricts traffic to one narrow lane. Wide loads are directed north to State Route 27 to connect to I-24 at the Nickajack Dam exit.
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.