Great Smoky Mountains National Park is using $31 million in funding from the Great American Outdoor Act (GAOA) to repave the Foothills Parkway West, from Chilhowee Lake to Walland. The 17-mile roadway provides recreational experiences for more than 700,000 visitors annually. The rehabilitation project will include a series of full-lane closures starting on March 14.
“We are pleased to have this opportunity to make these much-needed repairs,” said Acting Superintendent Alan Sumeriski. “With increasing visitation and the completion of the adjacent section of the Foothills Parkway, this area is experiencing more use and more wear and tear. These funds will enable us to make critical improvements to keep the road safely open for access to one of the most scenic driving experiences in the Smokies.”
GAOA funding supports a focused effort to address the most critical maintenance needs in the Smokies and other national parks across the country. This project will reduce more than $25 million in deferred maintenance associated with the Parkway, support 400 jobs, and contribute $85.5 million to the nation’s economy.
The Federal Highway Administration awarded the construction contract to a local, small business that will manage the project. Work will include repaving the roadway, restoring guardrails, repairing bridges and drainage, and replacing asphalt walkways with ADA compliant concrete sidewalks. The scenic Foothills Parkway West provides access to 16 overlooks, including the popular Look Rock Observation Tower, the recently reopened Look Rock Picnic Area, and the soon-to-be-reopened Look Rock Campground.
To safely and efficiently accomplish the repaving work, the project will include two phases of full closure periods. From March 14 through May 21, the roadway will be fully closed from the Look Rock Observation Tower parking area west to the Highway 129 intersection near Chilhowee Lake. From June 1 through August 31, the roadway will be fully closed from the Look Rock Observation Tower parking area east to the Highway 321 intersection near Walland, TN. During these periods, the roadway sections are fully closed to all pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. The remaining construction work will be conducted with single-lane closures from August 31, 2022, through May 5, 2023. Motorists should expect delays during this time period.
For more information about alternative scenic roads to explore during the construction period, please visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/autotouring.htm.
GAOA’s National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, supported by revenue from energy development, provides up to $1.9 billion per year for five years to make significant enhancements in national parks and other public lands to ensure their preservation and provide opportunities for recreation, education, and enjoyment for current and future visitors. GAOA, the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other construction funding sources are part of a concerted effort to address the extensive maintenance backlog in national parks.