Smokies landslide could affect tourism as road is repaired


A rain-induced landslide in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park left a hole in U.S. 441, but its impact could also affect the local economy depending on how long the repairs take. VisitNC.com has the latest traffic updates, and the Division’s 1-800-VISITNC operators keep abreast of these updates to keep potential visitors informed. Repairs could be done by mid-May to early June at the earliest, according to an estimated construction timeline released by the park service this week. The cost is anywhere between $3 million and $7 million. About 200 feet of the road was taken out by the slide. The landslide severed the main artery through the Smokies between Tennessee and North Carolina and could be a blow to tourism, specifically in Cherokee, if it isn’t reopened soon.

Actual reconstruction is expected to start in February, but debris removal and slope stabilization began this week. More than 50 local, state, tribal, and federal officials visited the site of the landslide Monday. The group included state and federal highway agencies, Cherokee tribal leaders, state legislators, congressmen and county commissioners from neighboring communities. Tribal government and lawmakers are pushing the park to streamline the reconstruction process – and perhaps even create a road bypass to get around the damaged road section in the meantime.

While Cherokee is in the shadow of the Smokies, Swain, Jackson and Haywood counties could feel the impacts of the road closure as well. Swain County attracts many outdoor tourists, from kayakers to hikers to sightseers. So, if spring comes and goes and the road is not fixed, “that is a pretty huge impact for us,” said Swain County Economic Development Director Ken Mills. In addition, the Cherohala Skyway is closed until further notice due to a rain-induced landslide. The 41-mile Cherohala Skyway connects Hwy. 143 from Robbinsville to Hwy. 165 in Tellico Plains, Tenn.