Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the award of a $33.8 million contract to continue construction on the “Missing Link” of the Foothills Parkway. The Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (FHWA) made the award to the Lane Construction Company of Charlotte, NC to design and build a substantial portion of the uncompleted section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland, TN and Wears Valley, TN.
The recent contract is for the construction of approximately one-half mile of the Parkway, including three bridges, two that will extend eastward from the Walland end, and the third to run west from the Wears Valley end. Park officials have dubbed this recent project “The Multiple Bridges Project”. Under terms of the contract, Lane Construction has until Oct. 25, 2015 - five years - to complete the project, beginning with the preparation of detailed plans and specifications for approval by the Federal Highway Administration and continuing through construction.
Funding for the project came from a variety of funding programs administered by the National Park Service and the FHWA, including $7.7 million that was made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
Work is already underway on a $24.7 million, ARRA-funded, project to design and construct an 800 foot-long bridge which will extend west from the Wears Valley end. The current project is expected to be completed in November 2011, so that work under this latest contract can begin where it leaves off.
“The completion of these contracts will be a huge step toward meeting our goal of having this Walland to Wears Valley segment of the parkway completed in time for the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016,” said Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale A. Ditmanson.
Currently, this 16.1 mile segment of the parkway is made up of two partially-completed portions, one extending east from Walland, and the other extending west from Wears Valley. With the latest contract, work is now partially-completed or under contract for approximately 15.77 miles of the 16.1 miles of this section. The NPS and FHWA are still seeking the funding to award a contract, or contracts, to construct the remaining .33 miles, including the last two bridges, and to pave and finish the entire 16.1 miles so that it can be opened to traffic.
The Wears Valley section is currently closed to all public access while the construction of the 800 foot bridge is underway. Park officials expect to close the Walland section to all public access as of Dec. 16 when work on the Multiple Bridges Project begins.
The Foothills Parkway is a scenic parkway congressionally authorized in 1944. The parkway corridor is 72 miles long, but to date, only two discontinuous segments totaling 22.5 miles are completed and open. Administered by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Parkway parallels the Park’s northern boundary from Chilhowee Lake, TN to Interstate 40 near Cosby, TN.