POLK COUNTY, NC (WSPA) – Rick Stich now heads the homeowners association for the Rixhaven subdivision near the now closed portion of Howard Gap Road in Saluda.
“It adds about 25 minutes to anything I do that’s heading toward Spartanburg, Columbus, Tryon,” Stich said.
That’s because part of Howard Gap Road has been closed since January because periods of heavy rain and an aging draining system caused major damage, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
NCDOT spokesman David Uchiyama says engineers and geologists assessed the damage to the road and to the mountain below Interstate 26.
The interstate had a sinkhole on the median, which Uchiyama said has been filled in.
“It was a big enough hole in the island to drop a dump truck,” Stich recalled. “They filled it back up. But they haven’t addressed the drainage problem so that’s a bandaid. it’s going to happen again. And if we get heavy rains it’s going to happen worse.”
NCDOT plans to repair or replace the drainage system for the Saluda Grade section of I-26 and Howard Gap Road.
“The plan also includes rebuilding the road up as well as a retaining wall on the side to make sure that Howard gap road remains in place for 50,60, maybe even 70 years down the line,” Uchiyama said.
He says residents need not worry about the mountains or interstate being safe.
“It has been inspected by geotechnical units,” Uchiyama said. “It is traveled everyday by NCDOT maintenance units.”
Experts anticipating mother nature’s next move.
“It’s going to happen again,” Stich said. “If we can fix this one, that’ll be a good thing. And then we’ll go on to our next little catastrophe that happens and there are always plenty of those. Mother nature makes sure of that.”
NCDOT says they’re still in the early design phases right now.
They’re aiming to start construction in the fall or winter.
“They’re doing their part,” Stich said. “As long as they keep doing it and make progress on it I would appreciate that.”