KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Parts of the Foothills Parkway will be closed through mid-2023 as the scenic roadway that attracts hundreds of thousands of sightseers each year will be repaved.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has received $31 million in funding from the Great American Outdoor Act (GAOA) to complete the project.
The repaving will focus on the parkway from Chilhowee Lake to Walland and work will include repaving, restoring guardrails, repairing bridges and drainage, and replacing asphalt walkways with ADA compliant concrete sidewalks.
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.
The remaining work will finish with single-lane closures from August 31, 2022, through May 5, 2023. Motorists should expect delays during this time period.
According to the National Park Service, the project will reduce more than $25 million in deferred maintenance on the parkway, support 400 jobs, and contribute $85.5 million to the nation’s economy.
“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.”
The 17-mile roadway sees more than 700,000 visitors annually and provides access to 16 overlooks, including the Look Rock Observation Tower, the recently reopened Look Rock Picnic Area, and the soon-to-be-reopened Look Rock Campground.
Funding from GAOA focuses on supporting efforts to address critical maintenance needs in the Smokies and other national parks across the country.