GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If you include traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway as part of your leisure routine or are planning a trip across the mountains for this summer’s vacation, you are about to see some improvements that could cost you disruption.
The parkway announced it had received approximately $127 million for two major projects, one of them covering about 75 miles near Grandfather Mountain, which is just outside Blowing Rock. The other involves the full replacement of the historic Laurel Fork Bridge in Ashe County, a span built in 1939 that extends 546 feet in length and 28 feet in width.
These are separate investments from the repair project that started last week and closed a section of the roadway near Linville Falls and Deep Gap. That project will conclude in September.
Parkway officials called the road “the country’s most-visited national park.” “Just last year the park had 15.9 million visitors,” Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout said in a release announcing the improvements. “The Parkway was created to be a driver of tourism and to support and sustain local economies. Ongoing investments in critical park infrastructure and operations will allow the Parkway to continue to serve the nation in this important role.”
Improvements, though, don’t happen without disruptions. Here is what to expect:
- The 75 miles between milepost 229.6, just north of Doughton Park, to milepost 305.1, near Grandfather Mountain, will be repaved and rehabbed over a 3-year period. This project will cost approximately $98 million and will include the repair or replacement of drainage structures, curbs, walks, shoulders, guardrails, overlooks and signs. The good news is that the paving will be done in phases, with closings staggered to ensure continuous access to recreation areas and visitor amenities, the release said.
- The Laurel Fork Bridge, which is at milepost 248.8, is a five-span bridge with a steel-girder-and-concrete-floor beam structure supported by concrete and stone masonry abutments. These abutments are set into a steep ravine, and concrete piers are cast onto a wide concrete footing. This replacement will take about two years and require the full closure of the parkway in that area, with a detour.
You can track the dates for both projects and find required detours on the park’s website.
Managed jointly by the National park Service and the Federal Highway Administration, these projects draw their funding from dollars allocated to address maintenance needs in national parks, which is funded at about $3.1 billion per year.
The National Park Service said this project will eliminate more than $115.6 million of maintenance backlog and will support about 1,600 jobs, contributing about $348 million to the nation’s economy.