Charlotte’s Lane Construction Co. has finished seven years of work to build five bridges in a “missing link” of the Foothills Parkway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Road work is notoriously difficult in the steep Smokies, but this one marks a rare milestone. Work on the 16-mile, $178 million section began in 1966 — when Lyndon Johnson was president.
Most of the roadway in that section, which is on the Tennessee side of the sprawling park, had been completed by 1989. But work ground to a halt because of slope failures and erosion during construction of the last 1.6 miles, which became known simply as the Missing Link.
The solution was to build a connecting series of nine bridges with as little environmental impact as possible. In 2010, Lane stepped in to design and build the final five bridges. Lane says 250 of its workers and subcontractors worked on the project.
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Park officials announced the near-completion of the section, which runs from Walland to Wears Valley, Tennessee, on Thursday. Because it still needs to be paved, the section won’t open to the public until the end of 2018.
Congress authorized the 72-mile Foothills Parkway in 1944, but only three of eight sections – totaling 22 miles – have been finished. No money has been authorized to finish the parkway.