BAT CAVE – Moving a mountain, or even a good part of one, isn't done in a day or two.

It will take workers until the end of July to remove the 110,000 cubic yards of dirt and rock that slid onto N.C. 9 and blocked the road here last month, according to the state Department of Transportation.

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The slide extends 600-800 feet up from the road and is large enough that someone standing close to it can't see to the other side. DOT is using a small plane equipped with lidar, a technology that uses laser light pulses and GPS to make 3-D images of objects, to map the work area.

The department awarded a $1.49 million contract to Robbinsville-based Graham County Land Co. to clear the slide. Starting last week, workers have been on site from sunrise to sunset daily including Father's Day, DOT spokesman David Uchiyama said.

The target date for the road to reopen is July 27.

Detour is a long one

N.C. 9 is lightly traveled, carrying only 630 cars a day in 2015. But the official detour route around the slide is lengthy, taking travelers all the way to Interstate 40 in East Asheville, then east on I-40 to Black Mountain.

"It is important that it gets back open as quickly as possible," said Gov. Roy Cooper, who visited the site recently. "We know that there is about a 50-mile detour that people have to take."

The slide, which occurred June 5 after a period of heavy rainfall, is about a mile north of U.S. 74-A near the Buncombe-Henderson county line and covers about 100 feet of roadway.

Workers have been removing trees on and around the slide area to allow better mapping of the site and make it easier to get earth moving equipment in, Uchiyama said. It is unsafe to simply haul dirt away from the bottom of the slide, so workers will build an access road to allow heavy equipment to get to the top.

The amount of material to be removed is the equivalent of about 9,100 dump truck loads, Uchiyama said.

The dirt and rock will be taken to an area less than a mile away, he said, speeding the process.

Once the slide is cleared, workers will repair the road and guardrail and may install a retaining wall or other measures, he said

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