Six months to the day after a rock slide brought traffic at the NC/TN border to a grinding halt, the North Carolina Department of Transportation reopened Interstate 40 in Northern Haywood County. The road opened at 6pm Sunday, two days earlier than previously announced but not a moment too soon for springtime travelers and related businesses.
One westbound lane of the interstate remains closed for about three miles, as workers scrape off loose rock in an area near the slide zone. That lane should reopen sometime this summer. Vehicles wider than 12 feet will still have to take a detour along via Interstate 26 until both westbound lanes are open.
"The tourism industry in Western North Carolina is collectively saying 'Hallelujah!'" said Marla Tambellini, the head of marketing at the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Tambellini told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the road closure, along with the weak economy, had a negative impact on visitation in the area. An NCDOT spokesman said he was already receiving calls Sunday night from motorists hoping to use I-40. Now officials across state and local governments, as well as area CVBs will be working hard to get the word out about the reopening.
For the latest updates on the ongoing work on Interstate 40, please visit the North Carolina Department of Transportation's website.