Next phase of Parkway construction begins

The next phase of construction of the Foothills Parkway “Missing Link” in Blount County began Sept. 22, Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said.

Over the next eight months, a Kentucky contractor will construct 1,200 feet of new roadway, which will run westward from the end of the partly finished parkway segment off East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Wears Valley.

Hinkle Construction Corporation, Inc., of Lexington, Ky., under a $3,783,268 contract with the Federal Highway, will perform the work.

The contract calls for construction of a reinforced earth section of fill across a shallow ravine. Additional work includes repairing damage to an overpass that carries the partly completed Parkway over Happy Valley Road so that it can support heavy construction equipment.

In the interest of visitor safety, the unopened section of the parkway off Wears Valley Road will be closed to all visitors use including hiking, cycling and horseback riding during construction activities. The nine mile-long section of partly finished parkway from East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Walland to the “Missing Link” remains open to those non-motorized recreational uses.

Construction on the 16.1 mile section of the Parkway that will eventually run from Wears Valley to Walland began in the 1970s when seven miles were partly-completed before funding ran out. Work resumed in the mid-80s with one project extending east from the Walland end and another project building westward from Wears Valley. Those two jobs were halted in the early 1990s after encountering numerous slides and erosion problems, leaving a 1.6 mile “Missing Link” uncompleted.

Between 1998 and 2008 a series of three bridges, which span a total of 1,675 feet, were completed on the Walland end of the “Missing Link.” Park and Federal Highway Administration officials expect to award a contract in the fall of 2009 to construct another 1,800 feet of Parkway to extend east from the three new bridges on the Walland end of the “Missing Link.”

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