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Famous tunnel in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to undergo first major repairs

See the Great Smoky Mountains National Park through the lens of Observer staffer John D. Simmons

From 2002-2009 Simmons documented stories on park flora and fauna including elk, brook trout, black bear and other park denizens.
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From 2002-2009 Simmons documented stories on park flora and fauna including elk, brook trout, black bear and other park denizens.

An iconic tunnel in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will get its leaks and cracks fixed and undergo other major repairs that will impact visitors for months, park officials said Saturday.

No major rehab has been done to Bote Mountain Tunnel since it opened in 1948, according to a park news release. The 121-foot-long tunnel is southwest of Gatlinburg in Blount County, Tennessee.

“Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months,” according to the release.

Crews will repair the tunnel’s concrete lining, replace its drainage system and remove loose stones, among other work, according to the tunnel project page on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. Some of the stone masonry will be cleaned and regrouted, officials said on the site.

To repair the tunnel, workers will close 7-mile-long Laurel Creek Road to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians from Jan. 3- Feb. 29, according to the park news release. The road leads from the Townsend Wye swimming hole to Cades Cove in the park.

Expect intermittent single-lane closures March 1-June 15 as workers complete the repairs and repave the tunnel.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.
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