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Lane closes for repair along The Dragon

5:55 PM, Jul 16, 2013   |    comments
  • A temporary traffic signal has been installed near Mile 9 along 'The Dragon'while repair work is being performed.
  • Signs are posted along U.S. 129 warning drivers of a lane closure along 'The Dragon'.
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(WBIR) Most motorcyclists are familiar with the stretch of roadway known as The Dragon, an 11-mile section of U.S. 129 that runs from Tabcat Creek Bridge in Tennessee to Deal's Gap in North Carolina.

Brad Fessler of Pine Grove, Penn., said, "This is my second time down here to ride The Dragon. It's a beautiful area. I just love the scenery. I love the roads. The roads are amazing."

But what impresses bikers the most are the more than 300 curves they find along the road..

Ted Kemmerling of Pine Grove, Penn., said, "We love turns. Straight lines are kind of boring and we just like being in the twisties."

Fessler, Kemmerling, and several others motorcyclists rode almost 1,000 miles to get to The Dragon and take on some of the most challenging twists and turns in the world. But they got an unexpected twist when they made it to mile 9.5 and saw a flashing traffic signal.

"I came around the corner and it was like 'Oh, there's a light here. That wasn't here last year.' It was definitely a little bit of shock," Fessler said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation has installed the temporary traffic signal, which will become fully operational Thursday. That's when Kentucky-based contractor Kay & Kay will begin working to stabilize the site of a 2012 rockslide.

TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said, "Back in March 2012, there was a rockslide that had occurred. It had been cleaned up and fixed. This is a more permanent fix."

Starting Thursday, crews will begin working to scale down the slope. Workers will be cutting down the unstable material. The debris will fall into the northbound lane, which is why the lane will be closed. Only one lane will remain open in that area.

Signs are sitting on side of the highway leading to The Dragon warning travelers of the closed lane. But since the lane doesn't close until Thursday, bikers aren't letting the unexpected twist turn them away from The Dragon just yet.

Kemmerling said, "The turns are quite a bit tighter than I thought they'd be."

Fessler said, "It's definitely biker's heaven."

The project is expected to be finished by August 31st.

The estimated cost is $685,000.

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