The National Park Service on has completed an Environmental Assessment of its planned Newfound Gap Road reconstruction. On June 28 the Park issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on the natural and cultural resources of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This FONSI clears the way for the Federal Highway Administration to contract for the rehabilitation of the 14.5 miles of Newfound Gap Road from the Park’s entrance at Gatlinburg, to the Tennessee and North Carolina state line at Newfound Gap.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said that, “This action is needed to address the deterioration of the pavement, safety concerns, and rehabilitation of the historic cut stone guardwalls, most of which were constructed about 70 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The road and wall conditions continue to deteriorate, increasing the Park’s routine maintenance and intermittent repair costs as well as posing safety hazards.”
Park officials say the work will take place in three phases over the next six to seven years, beginning with the first two miles of the road which descends north from Newfound Gap into Tennessee. That first phase is expected to begin in November of this year.
Ditmanson said, “We are very sensitive to the impact that road construction can have on our neighboring gateway communities. We reached out to our community leaders on both sides of the Park during this process to inform them of the purpose of and need for the work, along with the options being considered for timely completion of the project. We will make every effort to schedule the work so as to minimize traffic disruptions during peak visitation periods.”