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Contract Issued For "Missing Link" on Foothills Parkway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


A contract has been awarded to construct the "missing link" needed for the Foothills Parkway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Digital rendering via NPS.

Work was scheduled to commence today on construction of the "missing link" along the Foothills Parkway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The nearly $25 million project will add an 800-foot-long bridge soaring across the park's landscape to connect the eastern end of the unfinished Wears Valley stretch of parkway to the Walland segment of the parkway, park officials said. When completed in November 2011, the bridge is expected to be a "graceful, elevated roadway that forms a serpentine curve and will be supported by four piers up to 100 feet above the ground as it carries the road across two ravines on the south slope of Chilhowee Mountain," they said. "It is the longest single bridge needed to complete the 'missing link.'"

“Many people are familiar with the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct that carries the Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather Mountain,” said Great Smoky Superintendent Dale A. Ditmanson. “This new bridge is very nearly as long as that structure and likely to become just as note-worthy.”

The national park and the Federal Highway Administration are also working to finalize a contract to continue construction on the western, or Walland, end of the “missing link” working eastward from bridge 8 towards Wears Valley. They expect that work to begin in the fall of 2010.

“The first construction on the Walland to Wears Valley segment of the Foothills Parkway began in the late 1960s, and has progressed sporadically since that time," Superintendent Ditmanson said. "We have set a goal to get that segment completed in time for the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016 and are optimistic that that can be done, so that visitors can enjoy the unparalleled vistas that this segment will provide.”

Currently, the partially-completed sections of the parkway extending nine miles east from Walland, and four miles west from Wears Valley, are open for recreational use by hikers, cyclists and equestrians. Park officials plan to close the east end to all public use in mid-March when major construction begins. In the meantime, visitors using this section should be mindful that the contractor will be traveling this section in motor vehicles.

The $24.7 million contract for the "missing link" bridge was awarded to Bell & Associates Highway Construction of Brentwood, Tennessee, which will design and construct the bridge. The contract was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


Thus another race track soon to be opened for speeding motorcycles spewing noise and fumes from their un muffled exhaust pipes, risking the lives of others by high speed passing and aggressive driving.

Agreed. I prefer it "undone" as it is.

Leave it alone. We don't need another highway through the mountains. Let Mother Nature gradually reclaim the road and in the meantime, let the hiking and biking continue.

Is that really inside the park? According to my maps it looks like the route will be north of the park borders.

Is the foothills parkway open to the public from interstate to cosby tn?

Linda -

Here's some information from the park about the work earlier this year on the section of the Foothills Parkway between I-40 and Cosby, Tennessee:

"The Foothills Parkway East is a 5.6-mile paved road that runs between Interstate I-40 and highway US-321 in Cosby, TN. The work on this road [during 2010] will include resurfacing the road and parking areas at overlooks and repairing an area where a landslide occurred. Construction of accessible ramps will provide handicap access to sidewalks at overlooks.

Major work on this project has now been completed. Remaining work such as adding signage will be completed during fall."

You can download a park map showing the completed sections of the Foothills Parkway at this link:

That map indicates the section of the Foothills Parkway between I-40 and Cosby, TN is "closed in winter." According to the park, those closures occur only when required due snow and ice.

Updated information about temporary weather-related road closures in the park is available by calling (865) 436-1200, extension 631.

What a shame that Superintendent Ditmanson lacked the skills to block further road construction in the Smokies.

When many people feared that the massive effort to push experienced NPS people out the door would mean naive or politically vulnerable people would be the last line of defense for parks, Mr. Ditmanson advocated that young people had the ability to lead the parks, and many hoped when he was appointed superintendent he was right.

When politicians who advocated for road building in the Smokies were defeated in elections a few years ago, many hoped it would be an easier fight for the park, and the Smokies would be safe from road building, or extravagant engineering design statements in this National Park.

There was a time when the areas around parks were undeveloped, you could argue that the national parks needed roads. Now, when development everywhere is hemming in the few remaining wild places, it makes no sense to build roads in the parks. Especially on the argument that road traffic is incomplete and needs to be improved !

Can you imagine Superintendent Ditmanson's finding for "unimpairment"?

Who wants to bet that his argument was that this road building feat is not impairment at all, because he could have impaired the park even worse without the bridge?

And how can it be argued that the park needs to facilitate the traffic? It is already one of the most-visited parks, without this non-impairment 'improvement.'

We need a way to train prospective superintendents to develop the political skills to protect the parks, before we hand them the keys to the family jewels.

We recently visited Townsend, TN for a family reunion and heard about the "missing link".  What are you thinking?  We traveled on E. Miller Cover Rd. which is used by school buses and the road is deplorable.  How can you think of putting in another road for tourists and ignore the safety of your children and residents?  As a tourist I can tell you there are enough roads to travel now.  Please leave this stretch untouched and keep it for non=vehicular traffic.  The peaceful side of the Smokies is no longer peaceful.  The motorcycles completely runined our vacation.  I can't imagine opening this road to traffic and having another road to maintain .  LEAVE IT ALONE AND LET THE SMOKIES AND THE WILDLIFE BE AT PEACE.

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