The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to the National Park Service for completion of a 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Foothills Parkway was authorized by Congress on Feb. 22, 1944, planned to stretch 72 miles between Cosby, Tenn., to the east, and U.S. Highway 129 to the west. Work was completed on a 6.4-mile section of the road between Walland and Carr Creek in 1970. In the 80s, two contracts were awarded to build another 10 miles of road between Carr Creek and Wears Valley. Structural fill failures and erosion caused those projects to be suspended in 1989, leaving a 1.65-mile segment of the build incomplete. That section has since become known as The Missing Link.
Completing The Missing Link will eventually connect the entire 16 miles of parkway that extends from Walland to Wears Valley. Bridge 2 of the link was completed in 2013. It is composed of 98 precast concrete segments that weigh about 40 tons each. The remaining bridges needed to complete the missing link are under construction and are set to be completed in early 2017.
Dana Soehn, spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said, “This funding is going to allow us to do the final paving on the entire 16-mile section and install all the safety features on the roadway like guardrails, pull-offs, striping and signage. We anticipate we’ll be able to open the road to the public in early 2018 with this funding. It’s exciting.”