CHEROKEE -- Federal park officials say the job of reopening a highway closed by a landslide last month in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is under way.
But, park officials say, it probably will be sometime between mid-May and early June before a section of U.S. 441, also known as Newfound Gap Road, can be reopened.
U.S. 441 is the main connector road between Cherokee in North Carolina and Gatlinburg in Tennessee. A section of the road was closed when heavy rain brought down boulders, mud and other debris early last week.
The National Park Service says the first step in the repairs is building an access road to the landslide area, removing debris, and stabilizing the slope. APAC-Atlantic, Harrison Division has received a $200,000 contract to handle that job, which began Monday.
The federal government is taking bids on the main reconstruction project, which is expected to cost somewhere between $3 million and $7 million. The contract is expected to be awarded in mid-February, with construction to begin soon after.
Park officials say access to Smokemont Campground is still open to North Carolina visitors from the Cherokee entrance.
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