(GSMNP) Thursday, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials hosted a celebration for the commencement of the final capstone paving project for Foothills Parkway. This groundbreaking event served as an opportunity to acknowledge the support received by the State of Tennessee and the Governor’s Office in securing the funds needed to finalize the uncompleted 16-mile section of road between Walland, TN and Wears Valley, TN and bring an opening date for the Parkway to the horizon.
“Thanks to the support of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Governor’s Office we now have an end in sight,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Once completed, this section of road will afford local residents and the visiting public with a continuous 33-mile transportation and recreation corridor providing access to spectacular panoramic views of Great Smoky Mountains.”
In 2016, the Tennessee Department of Transportation competed for a $10 Million dollar federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) VIII grant to complete construction of the 16-mile stretch of the Foothills Parkway and was successful in its acquisition. The State of Tennessee Governor’s Office committed to providing an additional $15 Million dollar match to fund the final paving of the project.
“Local residents and tourists alike have waited a long time for the completion of the Missing Link of the Foothills Parkway,” said Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer. “Having this 16-mile stretch from Walland to Wears Valley open to the public will provide gorgeous views for the millions of tourists who visit this area each year and a big boost for East Tennessee’s economy. I’m pleased the State of Tennessee could partner with the National Park Service to complete this important project.”
Of the seven congressionally mandated parkways in the country, the Foothills Parkway is the only one yet to be completed. Authorized by Congress in 1944, the entire 72-mile corridor is administered by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Foothills Parkway was constructed in sections beginning in 1960. Due to funding limitations and environmental challenges, this 16-mile stretch was never completed. Currently, only three of eight segments of the Foothills Parkway are completed and open to the public, totaling 22.5 miles.
Senator Lamar Alexander, Congressman Phil Roe, as well as representatives from Senator Corker’s and Congressman Duncan’s offices joined with Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, representatives with the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service to commemorate this monumental achievement.
Construction on the final stretch of the Foothills Parkway is to begin late spring 2017 and is expected to take 12-18 months to complete.