January 16, 2010
Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207
Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced that the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division has awarded a contract to Bell & Associates Highway Construction of Brentwood, TN to design and construct the next section of the uncompleted Foothills Parkway. The contract was awarded for $24.7 million, with the funding being provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to design and construct the 800 foot-long bridge # 2 on the eastern end of the unfinished Wears Valley to Walland segment of the Foothills Parkway known as the "missing link".
When completed, bridge # 2 will be a graceful, elevated roadway that forms a serpentine curve and will be supported by four piers up to 100 feet above the ground, as it carries the road across two ravines on the south slope of Chilhowee Mountain. It is the longest single bridge needed to complete the "missing link". Work on the new bridge is set to start on January 15, 2010 and is scheduled for completion in November 2011.
"Many people are familiar with the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct that carries the Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather Mountain." said Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale A. Ditmanson. "This new bridge is very nearly as long as that structure and likely to become just as note-worthy."
The park and the Federal Highway Administration are also working to finalize a contract to continue construction on the western, or Walland, end of the "missing link" working eastward from bridge 8 towards Wears Valley. They expect that work to begin in the fall of 2010.
"The first construction on the Walland to Wears Valley segment of the Foothills Parkway began in the late 1960's, and has progressed sporadically since that time." Ditmanson continued, "We have set a goal to get that segment completed in time for the National Park Service's Centennial in 2016 and are optimistic that that can be done, so that visitors can enjoy the unparalleled vistas that this segment will provide."
Currently the partially-completed sections of the Parkway extending nine miles east from Walland, and four miles west from Wears Valley are open for recreational use by hikers, cyclists and equestrians. Park officials plan to close the east end to all public use in mid-March when major construction begins. In the meantime, visitors using this section should be mindful that the contractor will be traveling this section in motor vehicles.