Headlines rarely seen in Berkeley


Here in rural western North Carolina, the news can be a bit different.

Actually, our local paper had two good headlines this week.  They other one is

He'll be too busy to do the job.  The story doesn't say why he ran for reelection and then changed his mind with a week to go, but I suspect that it is because of a major story of regional economic import. The mayor runs a land clearing operation. On Sunday a landslide wiped out all four lanes of I-40 three miles east of the Tennessee border. Boulders the size of large houses came down. Thankfully it happened at 2 am and no one was hurt, although a truck and some cars were totaled when they ran into the blockage.  Had it happened during peak traffic times lives probably would have been lost.

The whole area above the roadway is still unstable.  It is being reported that they will have to build a road up to the area where the slide began to prevent future slides.  Even if NCDOT hires a contractor from out of state to manage the cleanup, they will certainly sub work to local heavy equipment owners.  I-40 is a major east-west trucking corridor so this will have a round the clock priority.  The detour that keeps to the interstate system adds about 65 miles to a cross country trip.  The other alternative route doesn't add much mileage but would be much faster as it entails a 45 mile stretch on an old two lane US highway through several towns.  There are also a couple of very narrow bridges that are white knuckle terror if there is a semi coming the other way.

This is a very rugged, isolated area.  I've written before that it is one of the most dangerous sections of interstate in the entire system- and one of the few in mountainous areas where the interstate didn't follow the trailblazing work of the railroads or earlier US highways.  This marks the third time it has been closed down due to slides and washouts in twelve years.  Such are the results when politicians rather than engineers chose where the highways be built.