Waynesville Mountain road to see repairs

By Caroline Klapper | Feb 04, 2013
Photo by: Caroline Klapper U.S. 276 South going over Waynesville Mountain is due for some work to move the road over and solve the cracking, sinking problem the roadway has now.

For decades, the short piece of road on U.S. 276 South going over Waynesville Mountain has been rough on the eyes and the cars traveling over it.

“It’s always been a problem,” said James Mathus, who lives on Pigeon Gap Road just off that portion of U.S. 276 South and owns the trailer park right below the problem area. “There is a major problem. It’s been an ongoing thing for years. It isn’t something that just happened.”

The trouble stems from the material the road is built upon, which has been slowly sinking and settling over the years causing the asphalt to dip and crack. Until now, the solution has always been to pour more asphalt over the area to create a smooth roadway again, but the problem has gotten to the point where something else needs to be done.

“My understanding is it’s been going on for 30 plus years at a very slow rate,” said Brian Burch, a construction engineer with the DOT.

Mathus agreed, saying he can remember seeing the first big crack in that part of the road back in the 60s, and those cracks and potholes have only become more common over the years.

“It’s dangerous,” he said. “There were two wrecks here, I believe, last week.”

And clearly, the asphalt solution is not working, he added.

“They’ve been capping that thing three or four times a year now. They capped it just last week or two weeks ago, and it’s already settling,” he said.

While it is true that the “traditional” fix has been to use more asphalt to fill in the cracks and low areas, Burch said that solution is only adding to the problem at this point.

Instead of fixing the road, the weight of the asphalt is causing more compression, and repairs on that section of the road have become more and more frequent. To make matters worse, the material under the roadway doesn’t drain well, and every time there are heavy rains, more of the base material washes away down the steep incline next to the road.

“Initially, we were going to put drains in, but right before we let the contract, we determined that was not going to be an adequate design. That material was just not suitable and putting drains in would not solve the problem,” Burch explained.

The new design involves removing the asphalt that has built up on the road top and putting in a much more gradual slope away from the road, which should help stabilize the whole area. The road itself will be shifted west by one lane into Waynesville Mountain. The ground closer to the mountainside is much more stable, and should prevent the road from sinking or cracking as it has in the past.

“We want to improve that slope, but we can’t grade it without moving (the road) over. Then, obviously, we’re going to put in a guardrail and hopefully, that will fix the problem,” Burch said.

The DOT already purchased right of way use of the Mathus property and that of David McElroy, of Massachusetts, who owns the property where the road will be relocated.

The project will be sent out for bids on Feb. 26, but in the meantime, Burch said there is “no danger of a catastrophic failure,” and the road is still safe for drivers.

“We’re trying to move as quickly as quickly as possible. We expect a contractor will be able to start by the first of April,” he said.

As for Mathus, he is looking forward to the day when the road will no longer be a hazard to drivers.

“They do have a plan, and they say it will work,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”